Inter-island tunnel: ‘we’re all responsible for the next steps’
JERSEY could leave Guernsey behind in building a rail link to France unless the community buys into an initial connection between the two islands.
The message to business leaders was delivered by Martyn Dorey, a former president of the Chamber of Commerce, who has been spearheading plans for a 15-minute train service – via a tunnel – to run between St Peter Port in Guernsey and St Helier in Jersey ahead of a future extension to France. Addressing the Guernsey Institute of Directors, he said that such a connection could ultimately cut taxes by boosting economic growth while addressing the ‘existential’ challenge of an ageing population, with its resultant impact on tax take and public spending.
The cost of the first phase has been put at around £2.6bn with a construction time frame of five to 10 years. The next step was to secure funding for a ‘full blown’ feasibility study, but the project’s proponents have acknowledged that it needs government and community support to progress.
‘We’ve got to convince you guys. We’re all responsible for the next steps, it’s not just us. If you think this is a great idea, if you want to reduce tax from growing GDP, we need you not to be quiet about this,’ Mr Dorey, a local businessman, told the Guernsey IoD breakfast event at the Old Government House Hotel.
‘We need you to spread the word that this isn’t a dumb idea. It’s physically possible. It’s probably more financially possible than we’ve assumed in our assumptions.
‘We need you to spread the word. We need you to persuade government to support this. We’re not going to get any funding without government guarantee. That’s a fact. No one in infrastructure at the moment is raising funds without government guarantees. We’re not going to get this funded without government support.
‘So our next step is to persuade governments both in Guernsey and Jersey.’
He told the event that the project team was speaking to Jersey’s council of ministers on 12 February: ‘My concern is that Jersey will go ‘‘stuff it, stuff Guernsey let’s make this happen. Let’s connect to France. We’ll make the French work for us’’.
‘This is going to add about a half a billion a year to the La Manche peninsula economically. So France will want this, Jersey will want this. Do you want to be left behind? Do you want to be isolated? No, nor do I. So we all have to take responsibility for making this happen. We’re all responsible for next steps. There needs to be funding for a full blown feasibility study. And also there needs to be a commitment from government not to sit on their hands and say “we are too worried about being shot by social media, we’re too worried about Joe Bloggs in Torteval saying rude things about us”.
‘We’ve got to start talking about this as a grown-up project. And we need government to come out and say, do you know what? We will support this. We don’t know what the right road is, who’s going to do the feasibility study. Obviously, we’ve been putting love into this. But let’s make it happen. We need a feasibility study. And then we’ve got to persuade the infrastructure investors to come on board. They will only come on board once that stack of paper is there saying this is how it’s going to work.’