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Irish set to reject UK tunnel link

AMBITIOUS PLANS to build an 84km long immersed tube tunnel linking the UK to Ireland are expected to be turned down by the Irish government this week.

Irish public enterprise minister Mary O'Rourke passed the £14bn scheme - proposed by Symonds Travers Morgan - to consultant DKM to assess its financial viability. A spokesman from the Department of Public Enterprise confirmed on Friday that the findings were expected 'within the next few days'.

But Irish government sources claimed the proposal - which would mean pinpoint placing of more than 400 tunnel units in water up to 100m deep - will be rejected by the minister.

'As far as I understand, it is likely that the assessment will come down against the scheme going ahead,' said one government official.

The proposed link was also met with scepticism by experts in the city. Credit Lyonnais Laing deputy head of project finance, Liam O'Keefe, said banks would be deeply suspicious of the scheme, particularly after the Channel Tunnel's cost overruns.

'To raise that kind of finance is going to be tough. The fact that it is at the cutting edge of technology would immediately make the banks very nervous,' he said.

However, Symonds Travers Morgan international director Gareth Davies remained upbeat about the scheme's prospects. He claimed a programme of 'high level meetings' was under way with the British Government, and that the company had received strong support from local authorities in North Wales.

He added that interest from the private sector had also been expressed by Railtrack and the utility companies.

'Our view is that a contribution of about 25% of the capital outlay would be needed from the governments and the EC to make the project viable,' he said.

Matthew Jones

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