Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Driving to France

Much as I would like be able to hop into the car and drive to France whenever the fancy takes me, I do not expect it to be a possibility in my lifetime. Purely because I have read Peter Walsh's ideas about the uses for the bridge, in the JEP on 23 April 2008.

Oddly Walsh states that 'more Islanders could live in Normandy and commute to France'. Presumably there has been some typo there, and he means they could live in Normandy and commute to Jersey, but that is not the odd thing, the odd thing is that if people are living in Normandy they are not Islanders! In other worlds, what he is suggesting is that a bridge would make it easier for non-islanders to work in Jersey. Remember, the Regulation of Undertakings rules require 5 years residence for most jobs, so that will effectively mean that if Islanders move to France they will lose their jobs.

Apparently the bridge would allow French businessmen access to Jersey and UK companies based on the island, and onwards to London. Why French businessmen would have to go through Jersey to get access to London is not explained. It seems inconceivable to me that Walsh is unaware that our finance industry already deals with people from all over the globe, and that if there was an advantage to French businessmen in owning a Jersey or UK company (or Liberian, BVI etc) they would already be doing it.

Then there is the money. £25 million per year to be raised by a £25 toll on Jersey resident cars - that is 500,000 cars taking a return trip annually! I don't know how many vehicles there are in Jersey, but it tends to be families that travel to France, or groups of friends, so not all the island cars are likely to get to drive onto the bridge. Walsh says local families travel to France two to four times a year. I know no-one, in my wide circle of local families, who travel there that often.

Walsh supposes 1,000,000 commuter cars will use the bridge annually raising £10 a car - that's 4,000 French cars coming into Jersey every working day. Oh yippee, more traffic! I am presuming the cars will be French as there would be no economic benefit to someone to live in expensive Jersey and work in cheaper France. It only works one way. That also supposes 4,000 jobs exist in Jersey without the need for the applicant to have 5 years residency in the island.

Walsh suggests that it would benefit Islanders to take 'a ten minute drive across the water to stock up on goods'. The Telegraph mentions a 15-20 minute trip, but frankly, at a cost of £50 for the return journey, either that trip would have to be tied into a special day out, or there would have to be substantial savings on the cost of goods in France to make the trip worth while. Especially with customs prowling the Island side of the bridge ready with their smiles and calculators to hold cars up for the 30 minutes it takes them to work out the GST.

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