Ben Lowry: A bridge or tunnel to Scotland tunnel is not a fantasy, but something that the kids of today might live to see

This week I heard one of the most interesting contributions so far to the debate on a fixed link to Scotland.

Saturday, 13th March 2021, 12:56 pm
Updated Sunday, 14th March 2021, 9:21 am
A fixed link to Scotland is plausible but costly. And Ben Lowry says he has watched far simpler projects like the Belfast-Dublin road above take more than 30 years to upgrade. It is not even an expressway yet. Above a tractor crosses through a gap junction on part of the route (A1 at Loughbrickland), built to such a basic standard as recently as 2006

It was a Scottish engineer called Gareth Dennis who spoke on BBC radio’s Good Morning Ulster.

He said that such a bridge or tunnel was entirely feasible and indeed that if engineers were asked to build it, they would certainly be able to do so, including avoiding the Beaufort’s Dyke munitions dump.

Mr Dennis said that while a bridge was possible, a tunnel was better, ideally a rail one. He said the whole project would cost at least £30 billion and take 20+ years.

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Mr Dennis also said such a project would hoover up too many of the UK’s engineers and would damage the delivery of other infrastructure projects.

Some Twitter trolls who dislike my politics accuse me of falling for the Boris bridge ‘fantasy’. In fact I have never thought a structure to Scotland likely.

Traffic levels are a fraction of those crossing the English Channel, which links London and Paris, both of which alone have a population larger than Northern Ireland and Scotland combined.

On a radio discussion some years ago I applauded the ambition of a tunnel to Scotland but said it would not happen for 70+ years. That timescale was met with surprise (see below a previous article on the matter).

But I have seen how long it has taken to deliver far simpler schemes. I first started taking an interest in the inadequate road links between Belfast and both Dublin and Londonderry in the 1980s. More than 30 years later, both roads are still not full expressways (ie the best, safest long distance roads, of two lanes in each direction, with no gaps in the central reservation).

The road from Cairnryan/Stranraer to the English border, the A75, is even worse and is single carriageway for almost all of its 100 miles.

Some politicians also call Boris Johnson’s bridge/tunnel ‘fantasy’. It isn’t.

It might well be an attempt to distract political attention from his Irish Sea border, but it is plausible. It just is not remotely a current priority, given modest traffic levels and immense costs.

I think of it as a 22nd century goal — a project to be delivered by 2100 perhaps?

If it is, then plenty of the younger children of today will live to see it.

Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

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