France ‘interested’ in tunnel link with Channel Islands

A tunnel between Jersey and the Continent is technically and economically viable, says minister

Potential route of the tunnels from Connect 3 Million pressure group
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The possibility of a tunnel linking Jersey to the Continent has moved a step closer to reality after France reportedly expressed interest in the idea.

A tunnel between Jersey and Guernsey is also on the table.

‘We know it is technically and economically viable’

Both islands, located off the coast of Normandy, are independent territories under the UK Crown.

They have their own governments, but rely on the UK for defence and use the British pound as their currency.

Kirsten Morel, minister for sustainable economic development in Jersey, told The Connexion: “We know that it is technically and economically viable.

“What we did not know was the attitude of the French to the idea, so I asked them at a recent liaison meeting because, clearly, if they are against it, there is absolutely no way a tunnel could be built.

“They said they were interested, which opens the way for possible further study at a government level, although it might just have been curiosity on their part.”

Jersey’s ageing population will need workers

Relations with France hit a low after a row over post-Brexit fishing rights, which saw the Royal Navy send a gunboat to Jersey.

The situation has subsequently improved. Agreement was reached last summer on allowing French citizens to visit using their ID cards and not passports.

Read more: Jersey lets French day-trippers use ID cards in bid to boost visitors

Mr Morel said the Jersey government must decide whether to start a consultation process to gauge support for the idea.

“We are an ageing population, and in the next 20 years the number of retired people on the island will increase,” he said.

“For our economy to grow, we need to find a new economic dynamic and having a tunnel link with France would do that.

“Gibraltar has 35,000 people with many workers crossing its border from Spain.

“Monaco has a similar number of people crossing from France, and Switzerland has something like 200,000 French workers crossing the border every day.

“Having a tunnel will put us in that sort of dynamic.”

Read more: Richard Branson ‘plans London-Paris train service to rival Eurostar’

Inspiration from Faroe Islands

Jersey has air links, mainly with the UK, and the expansion of its airport in the early 2000s was its last major infrastructure project.

It also has daily ferry links with Portsmouth on the English south coast and Saint-Malo in Brittany, with additional ferries from Granville (Manche) running in the summer.

Around 75% of visitors are from the UK and 25% from France.

Guernsey financial consultant Martyn Dorey set up the Connect 3 Million pressure group in 2019 to push the tunnel idea.

“My inspiration comes from the Faroe Islands, where tunnels have been built and are being built to link the islands,” he said. “That has been a tremendous boost for the islands.”

He added that Norwegian engineers are 95% certain that the rock under the 25km stretch of sea that separates Jersey from Manche department is similar to the granite used to build the town of Granville.

“This is good news because a tunnel can be built by blasting in hard rock, which is a much cheaper method than using a huge boring and lining machine, as was required for the Channel Tunnel,” he said.

“Very rough estimates, based on prices in Scandinavia, are €20million a kilometre for a train tunnel, where trains can go over 100mph.”

Public support is vital

He envisages a system where the building and maintenance of the tunnel could be granted to private companies, in the same way French autoroutes are constructed and managed.

Mr Morel emphasised that there is no fixed timetable, but said a decision to invest in further studies, paid for by the government, might be taken next year if there was public support.

“If the overwhelming feeling of the population is that they do not want it, because it will change the island forever or for any other reason, then it will not go forward,” he said. “But I, personally, am in favour.

“We know we have to do something as our population gets older.”

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