The Solent Tunnel

Discussions regarding a rail tunnel connecting the Isle of Wight to the mainland, first began in 1874. They continued until 1930, when the idea was finally scrapped, as being economically unviable. Below are a selection of press reports dealing with this matter.

Hampshire Advertiser February 21, 1874

THE SOLENT TUNNEL – In boring at Stene Point, the depth of 150 feet has been reached, more than 90 of which is clay. They have now come upon sand, but are continuing the operations.

Portsmouth Evening News May 21,  1886

THE SOLENT TUNNEL – On Tuesday evening Mr J S Wells of Ryde, had an interview with the Shanklin Local Board, in order to place before them his scheme for the construction of a railway tunnel between Ryde Pier head and Stokes Bay. He placed before the Board a number of documents, including an autograph letter from General Lord Wolseley, who stated that the scheme can be commended on military grounds. Mr Wells proposes that the tunnel should provide for a double line of railway, and that about about midway a fort should be constructed on the Sturbridge Bank. This could be so built that it could be used for the landing of passengers and mail bags from outward or inward-bound vessels which could shelter on the lee of the fort in any weather. With an open sub-aqueous communication, the fort would be practically the strongest in the world, as men, ammunition and food could be supplied without let or hindrance, and the direct railway communication would tend to make the Isle of Wight safer from foreign seizure in case of war. Mr Wells proposes that the Government should defray half the cost of the tunnel, and then the Railway Companies would probably be induced to take up the other half. The members of the Board expressed themselves favourably impressed with the scheme, and the Chairman was authorised to sign a memorial to the Government in its behalf.

Isle of Wight Observer January 5 1901

There has been on the mainland, as well as in the Isle of Wight, a good deal of specualtion as to who are the promoters of the proposed tunnel under the Solent. There are five promoters, and we are now able to give their names, which are as follows: The Right Hon the Earl of Egmont, Sir John Blundell Maple, MP, and Messrs Frank G Aman, Richard W Evelyn Middleton, and R Cunninghame Murray. These gentlemen will be the first directors of the new company, which will be known as the South Western and Isle of Wight Junction Railway Company. The new company will be floated with a capital of £600,000 in 60,000 shares of £10 each, and the estimated cost of the undertaking is put down at £530,000. In the Bill, which it is expected will come before Parliament in April. Power is sought to enable the London and South Western Railway Company to subscribe and to apply funds for the purpose, and facilities are also sought for the forwarding and interchange of traffic to and from the railway over the lines worked by the Isle of Wight Central Railway Company in the Island, as well as to enter into working agreements with this company and the London and South Western Company. The entire length of the new line will be seven miles, four furlongs, and 75 yards. The tunnel will be two miles, two furlongs, and 60 yards long, and about one mile and three furlongs will be under water.

Isle of Wight Observer January 19 1901

THE SOLENT TUNNEL – The Electrical Review says:”The length of the intended tunnel under the Solent will be about two miles 500 yards, and as the estimated expense of constructing this tunnel is exceptionally large it is proposed to ask for power to charge in respect of this tunnel as for a distance of twelve miles. The proposed railway throughout its entire length is intended to be worked by electrical power, and, with the consent of the London and South Western Railway Company and the Freshwater, Yarmouth and Newport Railway, the traffic from the proposed railway may continue to be worked by electrical power over those systems into Brockenhurst Station and into Freshwater and Newport Stations. Running powers are also sought over the Isle of Wight Central Railway and over the Newport, Godshill and St Lawrence Railway. The capital of the company is to be £600,000.

Isle of Wight Observer January 2 1904

THE SOLENT TUNNEL SCHEME – The promoters of the South Western and Isle of Wight Junction Railway are applying to Parliament next Session for an extension of time until the 26th of July, 1906, within which to acquire all the lands necessary for the construction of the railway tunnel from Lymington, under the Solent to Freshwater. An extension of time is also sought within which to construct this railway until July, 1911, which is three years beyond the time granted by Parliament when the scheme was sanctioned in 1901.

Isle of Wight Observer October 5 1918

Like the sea serpent and the enormous gooseberry, the Solent Tunnel comes to the fore again after a more than usually prolonged silence. There is no doubt that the tunnel would be an immense advantage to the Island generally, especially in the winter time, but in our opinion it should be made (when it is undertaken) from the neighbourhood of Portsmouth or Gosport to the shore at Ryde, where a really available link-up could be effected with the various railways of the Island. Until such an undertaking is accomplished the problem of through communication must always remain in a more or less disjointed condition, and the Island will suffer in consequence. In these days when millions of pounds are so lightly spoken of, and so freely – and sometimes carelessly – spent it should not be a matter of impracticality to forge this “missing link” with the mainland.

Western Times – March 14 1930

The proposed Solent tunnel was finally dismissed by IOW County Council as financially impracticable.

Return to 20th Century Railway page

Return to Railways page