The Opale Link Association was founded out of a desire to strengthen the economic, social and cultural links between the South East of England and the North of France.
The Côte d’Opale, which is ideally situated right at the heart of North West Europe, can boast physical characteristics and a local infrastructure that are surpassed by very few other regions in Europe : a well developed motorway network (A16, A26, A25), 3 ports each one a leader in its field, the Channel tunnel, a high speed rail link and international railway station giving direct access to Lille - Paris – Brussels and London, luscious green countryside, an outstanding heritage coastline and miles of wide sandy beaches.
Despite these undeniable advantages, the region suffers from poor economic development and the level of unemployment oscillates between 12 and 17% which is significantly higher than the French national average.
Paradoxically, just the other side of the channel, the South East of England which is dominated by London and its metropolis, has a booming economy. In recent years it has become the most prosperous region in Europe. However, faced with an ever increasing demand for housing and land for commercial and industrial development, England’s picturesque Home Counties have to struggle hard to preserve their traditional rural charms and quality of life.
It is with this paradox in mind that Opale Link aims to unite both French and British citizens in order to strengthen the cross border role of the Opale Coast region thus enabling the local populations to benefit mutually from further economic, social and cultural exchanges and cooperation.
The success of this project is dependent on the early introduction of a cross channel ‘Metro’ service. Such a rail service, using existing infrastructure and passing through the channel tunnel, would provide a regular and affordable, commuter rail link between Calais Fréthun to the new international railway station at St Pancras in central London in just 55 minutes.
The potential benefits of the introduction of such a service are manifold:
· Current British residents, desirous of improving their quality of life whilst holding on to their jobs in England, would be encouraged to settle in our region and become cross channel commuters. Furthermore, thanks to recent developments in technology (broadband internet access, VoIP, webcam…), more and more people are able to work at least part of the time from their home base: consultants, architects, computer specialists… An influx, however modest, of professionally active British immigrants and their families would bring a new wave of economic vitality to the region, further stimulating local employment.
· There are an estimated 300,000 French nationals currently living in London. In view of the high cost of living in the English Capital, a proportion of these expats might be tempted to return to France benefitting from the commuting opportunities available from the Côte d’Opale.
· A number of very large development projects are due to take place in the South East of England in the foreseeable future. Within the next 6 years alone the GNP of the South East is expected to increase by 63 million euro. Developments on such a large scale will generate a need for resources in terms of both supplies and workforce – residents and businesses on the Côte d’Opale will be well placed to benefit from this increased demand. The average gross annual salary in England is 38 540€ whereas the equivalent in France is just 29 140€ thus providing an additional impetus to the idea of living on the Côte d’Opale and working in Ashford (20 km from the channel tunnel) or Ebbsfleet (50km from the tunnel) where 50,000 new jobs will be created within the next 20 years.
· Such a link will also encourage small and medium size businesses to consider relocating to the Côte d’Opale which will be within an hour of London, 30 minutes from Lille and only 80 minutes from Paris.
· Finally, such a link would stimulate short stay tourism making the Côte d’Opale accessible for the 14 million Londoners, generating new business opportunities not only for hotels and restaurants but also for taxis, cafés, bars, nightclubs…
This is an ambitious project - Opale Link is counting on your support to help make it happen.
Thaddée Segard, President