A leading architect whose suggestion of a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland won the support of Boris Johnson has again called for the idea to be investigated.
Unveiling an initial sketch of what the bridge could look like, Professor Alan Dunlop said their was an urgent need for the proposed crossing to boost transport links and drive economic growth post-Brexit.
Speaking at a conference in Aberdeen, Dunlop said politicians should back a feasibility study into the project and put forward two potential options - a link between Larne and Portpatrick costing around £20bn or a cheaper bridge between Mull of Kintyre and Torr Head estimated at around £12bn-£15bn.
“We have the engineering and architectural talent and the capability to build this project; it would be a transformative economic generator and a world first,” he said.
Dunlop, who has his own practice and teaches at Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University, said the Scotland-Ireland project should be compared to the Norwegian Coastal Highway in terms of its ambition.
“[That] is a pioneering and remarkable infrastructure project and a sign of confidence for a forward-looking innovative country. Scotland and Ireland surely can achieve the same.”
Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was widely derided for backing the bridge earlier this year, following the Scottish government’s announcement that it was willing to consider all ideas to ‘‘improve connectivity’’ between the two nations.
Independent bridge consultant Simon Bourne said Johnson’s support for a fixed link between Scotland and Northern Ireland was a “publicity stunt” and he should “leave it to the real experts”.
“He’s got no substance behind it [his backing for the Scotland to Northern Ireland bridge]; I doubt he’s actually spoken to any bridge design friends. It’s just been pulled out of thin air and it’s an attention-seeking gesture,” said Bourne.
“It’s worth someone in government having a discussion about these things but he’s not the right person to be having the discussion, it needs a proper infrastructure panel to be thinking all these things through strategically over a number of years.”
The bridge, which Bourne estimates would cost around £20bn due to complications with building in deep water, would reach from the west coast of Scotland to Northern Ireland.
Bourne said a crossing between the two countries is not impossible, pointing to the cable-stayed Øresund bridge between Denmark and Sweden.
“In engineering terms it’s certainly within the realms of being achieved and within a reasonable timescale…I think at the end of the day it’s just money,” said Bourne.
“If you put something like this forward, you’ve got to tell people it will be £20bn, and you’ve got to give people some idea of how that will be funded.”
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