UK government display tunnel vision in Irish Sea bridge study
March 6 2020
The UK government has amended its vision for a £20bn bridge spanning the Irish Sea by promoting the concept of an all-weather tunnel instead as part of a hybrid bridge-tunnel vision.
The sub-sea solution would see the crossing dip below the ocean surface to enter a 22-mile long tunnel to escape the vagaries of wind and wave action while also reducing costs, amid concern that a single bridge solution would be too exposed to the elements.
A feasibility study will establish whether a link between Portpatrick near Stranraer to Larne, north of Belfast, is possible, assuming a variety of significant technical and funding challenges can be overcome, such as circumventing the 300m deep Beaufort’s Dyke.
Scottish secretary Alister Jack made the suggestion during a gathering of the Scottish Parliament’s culture, tourism, Europe and external affairs committee when he said: “It would be less expensive to tunnel it. It’s no different to the tunnels connecting the Faroe Islands, it’s no different to the tunnels going under the fjords.
“Once we get a better sight of the costs involved, should the prime minister decide to press the button, we would then want to engage with both [the Northern Ireland assembly and the Scottish parliament] to get a better understanding of the benefits and the challenges.”
It is thought that the tunnel could be modelled on the famous Oresund Bridge which utilises a combination of terrain dependent tunnels and floating tunnels to span 12km between Denmark and Sweden, mediating between the two via an artificial island positioned mid-way along the route.
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