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Network Rail to adjudicate on the feasibility of an Irish Sea tunnel

February 15 2021

Network Rail to adjudicate on the feasibility of an Irish Sea tunnel

Transport body High-Speed Rail Group (HSRG) has formalised its submission for a connectivity review of UK transport with the suggestion of a twin-bore 25-mile long tunnel beneath the Irish Sea to connect Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Championed by architect Alan Dunlop the cross-sea link was initially envisaged as a bridge but the practicalities of spanning a 1,000ft deep submerged chasm at Beaufort's Dyke and the need to buttress any above water structures against extreme weather has seen engineers turn toward underwater solutions.

Current thinking favours a route detouring north around the hidden trench between Stranraer and Larne, reducing the lowest point of deep water to a less daunting 650ft, although the price tag is still expected to be upwards of £10bn.

An upgraded line to service the tunnel would reduce journey times between Glasgow and Edinburgh to London to three hours or less with Belfast-bound trains diverting west at Carlisle.

HSRG board member Jim Steer said: "The most secure way is to tunnel it. It sounds crazy now, but before the Channel tunnel was built there was a similar debate.

"Our suggestion is that this should be looked at very seriously. It represents the considered view of the High-Speed Rail Group, which comprises over 20 of the biggest companies involved in high-speed rail in the UK and the Railway Industry Association."

Network Rail chairman Peter Wendy has been instructed to carry out a feasibility study on the proposals which will be subject to an interim report within the coming weeks.

A bridge link would have to close in high winds, prompting pursuit of a tunnel alternative
A bridge link would have to close in high winds, prompting pursuit of a tunnel alternative
Alan Dunlop envisages a dual rail/road tunnel starting at Stranraer
Alan Dunlop envisages a dual rail/road tunnel starting at Stranraer


Harry Dunn
#1 Posted by Harry Dunn on 15 Feb 2021 at 10:22 AM
It's no coincidence these fantasy projects like the glasgow metro and this get brought up just before an election, same thing happens every election cycle in Australia with their east coast high speed rail link.

Any tunnel under the Irish sea would have to be a road one not a rail one, I think the channel tunnel rail link hardly makes money and it is shorter, cheaper and serves much larger populations.
#2 Posted by David on 15 Feb 2021 at 11:51 AM
I don't think the Glasgow Metro is a fantasy project, steps are already being made to take forward the first phase.

This tunnel idea is a little ridiculous, and I don't know whether or not it would actually persuade voters to vote for a certain party, I am not a big fan of the idea. The money could be spent better elsewhere, for instance the Glasgow Metro!
#3 Posted by MV on 15 Feb 2021 at 13:33 PM
Is the island in the middle border control?

One man's fantasy... go you!!
Robert Blane
#4 Posted by Robert Blane on 15 Feb 2021 at 13:47 PM
This fantasy project will never happen as it’s nothing more than a Johnson ‘inspired’ attempt to gain votes; it will go the same way that all other such schemes go as soon as the May elections are out of the way. One thing that nobody seems to have picked up on, but which would have considerable impact on costs - Irish railways are of a different gauge to those in Scotland so if rails were laid in this fictitious tunnel, what gauge would they be? Better to give the cash involved to the Scottish government and let it use its devolved powers (these ignored by Boris Johnson of course) to make far better use of it, even to the extent of re-opening the Port Road rather than wasting millions/billions on road building schemes.
The Bairn
#5 Posted by The Bairn on 15 Feb 2021 at 13:55 PM
Sounds unrealistic at first glance but I applaud these first steps of a feasibility study with experienced professionals at the helm not politicians.
Value for money is always an issue and of course it will not prove to be cost effective in the short term but the idea is about more than money alone.
FYI the Scottish Government has been given almost £10 Billion in extra funding from Westminster to fight against Covid.
Denmark and Sweden are connected by a (now famous) Bridge (partly a tunnel) which carries both road and rail traffic. Why cant we unite to achieve this and use the finished project as a beacon of the talent we have in our United Kingdom for the whole world to see and envy?
jimbob tanktop
#6 Posted by jimbob tanktop on 15 Feb 2021 at 15:49 PM
Nice squirrel.

#5 Without wishing to dissolve into another wearying discussion on what was or wasn't spent, the 'extra' £10 billion spent in Scotland has come about as a consequence of UK-wide spending by the UK government, raised primarily not by plundering the the UK's mighty fiscal reserves but by printing money in the form of quantitative easing. Namely, the same trick pulled this year by just about every government on Earth. That you use the word 'given' suggests we should be grateful we're being treated on a par with folk who live in another part of the UK. Which, I think you'll agree, is the bare minimum the citizenry of any part of any country should expect.
Charles Cullen
#7 Posted by Charles Cullen on 15 Feb 2021 at 17:52 PM
if this projects ever gets the green light it will create huge benefits in the years ahead for the Republic of ireland for industry and tourism .
#8 Posted by StyleCouncil on 15 Feb 2021 at 18:29 PM
#6 luckily we are treated even better than other parts of the UK, certainly fiscally. This is a pipe dream however. No pun etc..
Yes, before an election all sorts of promises and policies are unveiled. Like those announced by the SNP during their BBC covid briefing earlier....
#9 Posted by IndyNoo on 16 Feb 2021 at 09:20 AM
This has been a bridge. Then a floating bridge. Then a tunnel. Then a floating tunnel. Now it is a tunnel again. All in the past 18 years I have been practising Architecture.

The Union Unit are in full swing now - making all these daft promises to entice Scots to vote for non Independent supporting parties come May. It is embarrassing - what is worse is the fact that the £10 billion costs (let's face it - with the Tories in charge this will balloon to double in a matter of years) will be added to Scotland's deficit despite not wanting it.

However, if you can put a positive spin on things then a physical link between an Independent Scotland and a United Ireland would be pretty cool in the future.
#10 Posted by CH on 16 Feb 2021 at 10:07 AM
I wonder what people in Scotland would like? If we were all asked what major spend on infrastructure would bring our communities and businesses most benefit how far up the list would this be?

Off the top of my head I'd be more excited by . . .

Faster rollout of dualling both the A96 and A9
The deep water harbour expansion in Aberdeen
Extension of the railways further into the Borders and North East
Improvement and upgrades to the now major tourist route that is the North Coast 500
Provision of fit for purpose park and ride services across our larger towns

Obviously none of the above sits in the UK remit, but if you are going to offer voters a bribe, at least try and stick the money on something voters may be interested in.
Randall Sloan
#11 Posted by Randall Sloan on 16 Feb 2021 at 10:42 AM
Gosh, I think all of the above comments represent what is wrong with Scotland - no ambition! Yes this may be slightly absurd by why on earth should we not do this?? As someone above noted Denmark and Sweden are connected to great benefit, many people work in one and live in the other, and the fast route via the bridge gives them the opportunity to do that - what a wonderful opportunity this would be to further the relationship between the entire island of Ireland and the entire Island of GB. Yes, the A9 needs dualled, the A96 could do with it as well and our pathetic rail network is an embarrassment to the Victorian's who pioneered it but there is no reason why we can't have all, well maybe one or two (£££) but...come on, sometimes there is a bigger picture to be painted first.
#12 Posted by MV on 16 Feb 2021 at 11:11 AM
Oh good, politics. Leave the union, but build an underwater bridge to Ireland (why?). Leave the UK union, join the European union. I'd love, for the first time in decades, to be voting for a party based on running an efficient, effective government that can bring prosperity to us all rather than voting for those that are stay or leave. It’s a great smoke screen to how badly all the UK governments are doing. Lets all come together… not all drift apart. Borders are made up things. The squirrels don’t know what country they are in, because countries aren’t real things.

Anyway. If we are going to be ambitious – lets do an underwater tunnel to the USA. NI could be a service station. We could live in Cumbernauld and work in Manhattan…
#13 Posted by Tara on 16 Feb 2021 at 14:03 PM
What if Scotland became independent and inside the EU? You'd have to pass through another country to get from one bit of Britain to another. Plus I don't think stirring up debates over the future of ireland and trying to strengthen the union is in Scotland's interest. There is bound to be some sort of sectarian element to this sadly.
Sally Design
#14 Posted by Sally Design on 16 Feb 2021 at 14:09 PM
Good grief half the comments here seem to be about national identity politics, can we forget this obsession with flags for a minute and discuss the technicalities of the infrastructure project.

#2 The Glasgow Metro does still seem to be a fantasy project, the only technical drawings I have seen of it are some squiggly lines made in MS paint, certainly within the realms of fantasy.

Constructing a road tunnel across the English channel should be the highest priority, given that almost all of Ireland and Scotland's freight to the EU crosses the channel at Dover to Calais at road tunnel that could be used by lorries there would probably be of far more economic benefit than this very expensive rail tunnel that would probably get hardly any use.
Jimbob Tanktop
#15 Posted by Jimbob Tanktop on 16 Feb 2021 at 16:43 PM
Leaving aside the fantastical blubberings of this project, the idea of spending £10 billion so folk could drive through a tiny section of southwest Scotland from Northern Ireland on their way to Manchester United or Arsenal games in England doesn't strike me as being of great value.

Much more intrinsic value would be an expansion of the Glasgow Subway and the Edinburgh trams, extending the M9 to Inverness, dualling the A90 and A96, building Glasgow's Crossrail, investing in offshore hydrogen production...all have greater bang-for-buck impact upon the lives of humans than this bodge.

If you want pie-in-the-sky, ask Elon Musk to build a hyperloop between Glasgow and Edinburgh. That'll keep the comments section buzzing for an eternity.
Ghetto King
#16 Posted by Ghetto King on 17 Feb 2021 at 09:54 AM
#14 Quite right. Let's forget about the identity politics.

1. For years we have been told that this section is a major armaments dumping ground. If this is true then surely some items would have moved over the years. The cost of clearing and making safe would be expensive , time consuming and quite possibly ongoing.

2. Nuclear armed subs are meant to be patrolling these waters in secret and unhindered. During construction , how would this be kept going?

3. Compensation to Fishing , Ferries etc?

4. Jurisdiction of law ? Scots or N.I.?

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