Able Connections Ltd., the company behind a continued push for a fixed link between the mainland and the Isle of Wight, have today (Friday) released what their ‘Solent Freedom Tunnel’ would look like and where it would be built, scrapping previous plans for the tunnel to emerge at Arreton.
The proposed tunnel would run from the M27 east of junction 9 to the Whippingham roundabout on the Isle of Wight, with an additional access intersection ‘cut and cover’ portal near the mainland coast between Browndown and Meon.
According to the company the scheme would bring a range of benefits to the region including a step change in the connectivity of the Solent’s emerging mass transit public transport network; reduced highway congestion; reduced HGVs in city centres; new habitat for wildlife and public amenity; agglomeration benefits for industries in the Aerospace, Marine Defence and Composites sectors and other major employers in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Able Connections also say the tunnel would improve accessibility to the Island for tourists.
Although the scheme arose from the “PRO-LINK” lobby group on the Isle of Wight, the impacts and benefits on the mainland side are said to be easily as large. Specifically, the scheme would address highway capacity in the Fareham/Titchfield/Stubbington corridor, potentially reducing HGV movements through the centres of Southampton and Portsmouth and provide a line of route for the Eclipse BRT from Daedalus EZ to a new interchange hub with the proposed phase 2 metro to Segensworth. Agglomeration benefits arise by bringing the large integrators on the Medina Valley closer to their supply chain in South Hampshire.
All of this is on top of journey-time savings for existing cross-Solent travel estimated in accordance with DfT methodology to be worth in the range £38m-£64m per year.
A spokesperson for Able Connections has said:
“We have had conversations so far with officers from Hampshire, Portsmouth, Southampton, Isle of Wight and Fareham councils; Solent Transport; the MPs for Gosport and the Isle of Wight (and would have met Fareham too had the election not been called), and various Island councillors and stakeholders which are all encouraging.
“The next stage of work is to seek public support for a feasibility study (funded either privately or publicly) to prove our assumptions about usage and construction costs”.