Belfast Telegraph

Bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland 'could create Celtic powerhouse'

By Claire O'Boyle

A bridge linking Northern Ireland and Scotland could create a "Celtic powerhouse", a top architect has claimed.

Professor Alan Dunlop from Liverpool University said a road and rail crossing from Larne to Dumfries and Galloway would boost the Irish and Scottish economies, and help ease border pressures after Brexit.

"A bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland would be an excellent idea," he said.

Prof Dunlop's comments followed suggestions by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson that a bridge linking England and France could be on the table.

In an interview with Scottish newspaper The National, Prof Dunlop stated that an Irish-Scottish suspension bridge would make more sense than one in the English Channel, which could cost as much as £120bn.

He said: "In terms of a crossing between Scotland and Northern Ireland, a Celtic Connection, the coastline between each country is more sheltered and the waterway better protected [than the English Channel].

"Crucially, the North Channel of the Irish Sea is not nearly as significant a shipping lane. To propose a bridge between Scotland and Ireland would in fact be a big step in actually creating a 'Celtic Powerhouse' and give politicians the opportunity to invest in the infrastructure of the true north."

Estimating a possible cost for an Irish-Scottish bridge, Prof Dunlop said it could be completed for between £15bn to £20bn.

He also suggested a bridge could help iron out post-Brexit issues including customs, borders and access to the European market. Discussing the various possibilities, Prof Dunlop said a rail and road bridge, like one connecting Denmark and Sweden across the Oresund Strait, could be built between Larne and the village of Portpatrick in south west Scotland.

And while Beaufort's Dyke - a 300m-deep sea trench off the Scottish coast - would prove challenging for engineers, he said the part of the bridge above the dyke could be attached to the bottom and float, "much like an oil rig". He also said a bridge, while more expensive, would be a better option than a tunnel.

"A bridge is much better than a tunnel for it is a dramatic, visual marker for the aspirations and ambition of a country in the 21st century and beyond."

The architect added that a bridge between Torr Head on the Antrim Coast and the Mull of Kintyre would be technically easier to build, but it might not attract commuters in sufficient numbers.

Former NI Economy Minister Simon Hamilton said: "Imagine being able to board a train in Belfast or Dublin and be in Glasgow or Edinburgh in just a few hours. It would revolutionise our trade and tourism never mind our sense of interconnectedness. It maybe isn't as unrealistic an idea as you'd first think."

Downing Street talked down Boris Johnson's plans for an English Channel bridge, and the office of French President Emmanuel Macron said he had not backed any plans.

Belfast Telegraph

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