A PARLIAMENTARY Bill supporting a single-track rail tunnel in the West Wight was approved in July 1901.

Several schemes were put forward but in 1927 the Ministry of Transport informed the IW County Council it did not anticipate sufficient demand to justify the cost.

This view could still hold today, especially if the true costs would be borne by each fixed link user.

Now every engineer enjoys a challenge. One can anticipate a consultant concluding that a proposal was viable in ‘engineering’ terms. After all, the technology is well proven.

No doubt having raised the funds, the proponents of a viability study will want to set the terms of reference. 

But to be credible the report must be objective and cover the economics and suitability of such a scheme — its pros and cons.

Issues to be considered might include — whether it be a tunnel or bridge, any route options, approximate capital and ongoing operational costs, funding scenarios and likely toll charges arising, impacts on the surrounding infrastructure at each end, demand versus level of toll charges and impact on existing ferry services, environmental damage etc.

These issues should not be pushed into the more expensive feasibility stage, which would be a common consultant ruse in anticipation of more work.

This might be avoided by getting several consultants to bid against an independently agreed ‘terms of reference’.

Only with an unbiased and objective, all-encompassing study could one conclude whether a fixed link was or (equally importantly) was not viable.

On the other hand, a more subjective report that tells its commissioner what he wants to hear, will be of little value to anyone.

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