A CROSS-SOLENT tunnel link between Hampshire and the Isle of Wight is one step closer to reality.

The Daily Echo can reveal that civic chiefs from south Hampshire councils are set to meet on December 5 to discuss the concept of a cross-Solent tunnel, a multi-million pound project which is set to cost £3 billion.

Councillor Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council said: "I have invited the people behind the proposed fixed link to present their ideas to south Hampshire's council leaders at the next meeting of the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire in December."

A statement from Able Connections Ltd, the group behind the project for developing the Solent Tunnel said: "PRO-LINK and Able Connections Ltd, are having meetings with the Mainland authorities during Nov and Dec to hopefully confirm preferred Fixed Link lines of route, locations and scheme details for the two Northern Portals."

The plans will consist of two long dual carriageway tunnels built underneath parts of Fareham and Gosport.

The dual tunnels would run from Whippingham on the island, to a portal near Lee-on-the-Solent and then to a portal 900 metres from the M27 where the journey will be completed with a new Junction.

The news comes after four transport portfolio holders from across the region met earlier this month to consider the potential for establishing a cross-Solent partnership board to enhance Isle of Wight and mainland transport connections.

Under the plans, the new board will consist of ferry operators, local authorities and Island businesses which will meet and seek to enhance transport links with the island.

Councillor Jacqui Rayment, chairwoman of the Solent Transport Board, a partnership group which works strategically with businesses, key stakeholders and other agencies to deliver improved transport infrastructure said: "We are very mindful that we need to ensure that the Island is part of the bigger picture and that ferries run at times that the residents of the island need them to for social and work opportunities on the mainland.

"The fixed link is something that has been proposed on a number of occasions and I would watch with interest to see how this proposal develops."

Carl Feeney, director of Able Connections Ltd, the group behind the project for developing the Solent Tunnel added: "It would appear to be best for Able Connections to be part of the process of the partnership for establishing the best line of route and scheme with the mainland authorities.

"A viability study to determine the basic foundations of a potential Cross Solent Tunnel would cost in the region of £100,000."