NI-Scotland bridge 'definitely can be done', says leading UK architect
One of the UK's leading architects has called for a feasibility study to be carried out into the building of a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Speaking at a conference at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Professor Alan Dunlop stressed he wanted the governments of Scotland, the UK and the Republic of Ireland to take the idea seriously.
"The conference was about borders and that was a kind of general theme," Professor Dunlop said.
"I have done quite a bit of work looking at major infrastructure projects worldwide, and I think on that basis there is a justifiable case about whether it is economically viable. It definitely can be done economically.
"There is concern about the cost of the project, but you know what they say - you can have three economists, you'd have four conclusions.
"There are opinions either way about whether it can stack up or not."
At the conference, Professor Dunlop also released the first artist's impression of what the bridge might look like.
The catalyst for the proposed link was a speech made by Boris Johnson in January this year, while he was Foreign Secretary, in which he floated the idea of a 22-mile bridge across the English Channel to France - something he said would improve transport links after the UK leaves the European Union.
Professor Dunlop said that proposal was not feasible because the stretch of water between the UK and France is one of the busiest shipping channels in the world.
But he was asked shortly afterwards by Scottish newspaper The National if a similar project between Scotland and Northern Ireland was a possibility.
Professor Dunlop laid out two proposals for the route - one from Larne and Portpatrick, potentially costing around £20bn, and a crossing between the Mull of Kintyrne and Torr Head, potentially costing between £12bn and £15bn.
"One haulier I was speaking to was making dozens of trips across from Northern Ireland to Scotland every year and the cost of that was £600 each time," Professor Dunlop said.
"So when you take personalised stories like this, you can see how the financial benefit would add up."
The proposal received a boost in March after a spokesman for the Scottish Government said it would "initiate discussions to explore improving connectivity" between the island of Ireland and Scotland, adding it was important "that all options are fully considered".
DUP leader Arlene Foster and MP Sammy Wilson have both previously voiced their support for the project.
The bridge proposal was also supported by Mr Johnson, who has called for it to be considered "seriously".