Tunnel from Northern Ireland to England plan lacks inspiration, says architect behind bridge to Scotland proposal
The architect who first proposed the idea of a bridge linking Northern Ireland and Scotland has said an alternative plan for a tunnel would not be as inspirational.
Professor Alan Dunlop - a fellow of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland - also said the idea which would link Northern Ireland to England instead, would see Scotland lose out on any economic benefit.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has championed the plan to bridge Northern Ireland and Scotland as a means to "strengthen the union".
However, this week a second proposal was made.
The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) produced an imaginative plan to physically link Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK with two tunnels with one from England to the Isle of Man, and a second from the Isle of Man to Co Down.
ICE argues that although it would be longer than the bridge, it would be cheaper and it would not be at the mercy of bad weather.
It would also avoid the problems in spanning Beaufort Dyke, a deep sea trench in the North Channel containing a million tonnes of dumped wartime munitions.
The plan is part of a broader list of tunnel projects put forward by the society.
Another tunnel has been proposed linking Dublin to Wales - avoiding Northern Ireland and Scotland altogether.
Professor Dunlop's bridge plan was inspired by the Oresund Bridge which links Sweden and Denmark – two countries that have a shared Nordic cultural heritage and population size similar to Scotland and Ireland.
He said a bridge to Scotland would "demonstrate confidence and ambition in our shared futures".
“The bridge proposal was originally titled the Celtic Crossing, sparked by the idea of a Celtic Powerhouse in Scotland and Ireland," he told the Scottish National newspaper.
“The notion was to address the continuing centralisation of infrastructure in London and the south of England and to balance the Northern Powerhouse initiative being promoted by the Westminster government at that time, which focused on Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield."
Professor Dunlop said the tunnel proposition was "interesting" although argued it could cost the same as building the bridge.
“I contend that it would not bring economic benefit to Scotland and, in my view, would be much less inspiring."
He again urged Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to set aside her differences with Boris Johnson and consider a bridge project.
The Scottish Government has 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".
Bill Grose, lead author of the ICE report, told the Sunday Times said a tunnel starting north of Liverpool that surfaced in the Isle of Man and then went back under to reach Belfast "would solve all the problems".
The distance from England to the Isle of Man is around 50 miles, and from the Isle of Man to Northern Ireland is just over 30 miles.
Professor Dunlop first proposed the idea of a bridge in early 2018 which has been championed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
He has proposed two potential routes - one from Larne and Portpatrick (potentially costing around £20bn) or a crossing between the Mull of Kintyrne and Torr Head (potentially costing between £12bn and £15bn).
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he wouldn't dismiss the idea but insisted the UK had to foot the costs. He said "at the very least" a high-level engineering assessment could be carried out into if it was possible.
The DUP has also backed the plan while Sinn Fein rejected the idea as "fantasy politics".
Transport officials in London have been asked to look at various options for a bridge linking Scotland to Northern Ireland, it was confirmed in the Lords on Tuesday.
Baroness Vere of Norbiton cautioned peers not to hold their breath about any quick outcome to the investigations.
The issue was raised at Lords question time by Labour former minister Lord Foulkes of Cumnock as peers pressed the minister over repairs to London’s Hammersmith Bridge.
Lord Foulkes said: “During the general election Boris Johnson pledged to consider building a bridge from Northern Ireland to Scotland even though there are hundreds of tons of explosives in Beaufort’s Dyke, which were put there supposedly because it’s a safe place to put them.
“If the Government can’t keep Hammersmith Bridge open how on earth are they going to manage to do that?” he demanded, to laughter.
Belfast Telegraph Digital