The Island’s MP, Andrew Turner, has agreed to back a campaign to introduce a fixed link to the Isle of Wight should the majority of Islanders agree to the idea – a prospect that is not far from reality as it is revealed millions of pounds is potentially available to fund such a link.
It has been revealed by the Department of Transport that a large pot of money to support a project of this nature is available from the Government via the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, which would see a bridge or tunnel built between the mainland and the Isle of Wight.
With the Solent LEP having already secured £124.8million, a Local Growth Fund (LGF) has been announced with £85.2million of new funding to support local major transport schemes already allocated for the Solent area from 2015. Further rounds of LGF funding are planned, which could further assist in funding a fixed link.
In a letter to local resident Kevin Price, the DoT confirmed there has never been a formal application for funding for a fixed link bridge or tunnel from either the Isle of Wight Council or the Solent LEP, prompting steps to be taken to launch a survey to gather local resident’s thoughts on the prospect.
A Facebook group called ‘Isle of Wight Fixed Link Referendum‘ has been set up by Kevin and fellow local Carl Feeney to discuss both the positive and negative effects of a bridge or tunnel, which could revolutionise the Island’s economy. Many group members have already said they would wholeheartedly support a bridge or tunnel and can see many benefits. The group has attracted 1,000 members in just 5 days.
Locations for the fixed link have been suggested as Yarmouth to Hurst Point, or Gurnard to Lepe/Fawley (illustrated as seen from Lepe) with easy connections to both the M271 and the M3 to London.
Service cut backs, poor customer service and rocketing prices have led Islanders to lose faith in the Island’s ferry services, with an average crossing now costing some £45 for a day return. Following the deterioration of ferry services to and from the Island, it is believed that should Islanders be given the chance to vote yes or no, the majority would agree to a link that could see the price of crossing the Solent become as little as £20 return, making commuting and social traveling more affordable and easily accessible.
In Scotland, the Isle of Skye saw an increase in GDP following the building of a bridge (which eventually became toll free), and it’s hoped that a similar project for the Isle of Wight could not only help boost tourism, but provide a better quality of life for those living on the garden isle. A reduced cost in travel could also lead to larger numbers of visitors for major events such as the Isle of Wight Festival and Bestival, that already feed millions of pounds into the local economy.
Some fears have been raised by locals that crime would increase and that the Island would lose its isolated feel, however many say the only thing that would change would be a stronger, more attractive economy and a more affordable place to live.
A bridge would prove to be controversial for yachtsman and the Island’s sailing clubs, but with a variety of revolutionary bridge designs the knock on effect to racing in the Solent could be minimised. A design, as illustrated above, could prove popular.
Suggestions have been made that a tunnel would keep in theme with the Island being isolated as it would have no impact on the seascape.
The survey will be launched early in the New Year.
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