Top architect insists Scotland - Northern Ireland bridge 'is feasible'

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
A bridge between Portpatrick in Dumfries and Galloway and Bangor or Larne would cost about £15bn

It has been claimed a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland would create a "Celtic powerhouse".

A week after Boris Johnson proposed a bridge across the English Channel, an architect says the potential link would be a better prospect.

Prof Alan Dunlop thinks the "Celtic bridge" would cost about £15bn, a fraction of the estimate of £120bn for the English Channel bridge.

He said it would boost both economies and help the post-Brexit border issue.

Alan Dunlop is one of the UK's leading architects and a Fellow of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland.

'Investment in the true north'

He told BBC Radio Scotland's John Beattie Show: "It would be a wonderful thing - a connection between Scotland and Ireland.

"We share a lot of history together, similar ideals.

"The business potential is exceptional, the chance of actually really making an investment in what would would be the true north.

"Westminster politicians talk about the northern powerhouse, but they're really only talking about Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield.

"This would be an investment in what would be, I think, the true North."

Mr Dunlop estimated a cost of about £120bn for the English Channel bridge.

Image caption,
Prof Alan Dunlop sees huge benefits in such a project

He thinks the "Celtic connection" would cost about £15bn and would prove less difficult to achieve.

He said: "The challenges of it are much less than Boris' idea of building across the English Channel.

"We don't have the weather problems and it is a not as significant or as large a shipping lane.

"The possibilities of it are great.

"It would send out a dramatic marker in aspiration for the country going into the 21st Century."

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had suggested the channel bridge as it was announced Britain and France were investigating joint infrastructure projects.

The UK foreign secretary reportedly ran the idea past French President Emmanuel Macron at a summit on Thursday.

Downing Street has said there are "no specific plans" for a bridge between the UK and France.

There are two potential routes for a Scotland - Northern Ireland bridge.

'Investment in Scotland'

Mr Dunlop said: "There are two ways it could go. It could go from Portpatrick to Bangor or Larne, but there are significant environmental and geological challenges there.

"We do have incredibly talented architects and engineers in Scotland so I am sure that as a technical challenge it wouldn't be insurmountable.

"The shorter route would be from around Campbeltown, the Mull of Kintyre across to the Antrim coast.

"But getting to Campbeltown from the central belt is very difficult."

The idea is still that - an idea - but Mr Dunlop sees it as a feasible project.

He thinks a bridge could bring solutions to post-Brexit border arrangements and that it would be a good investment for Scotland.

He said; "It would be something we could debate around Brexit.

"Engineering-wise and architecturally this could be an investment in the infrastructure of Scotland and Ireland."

Economically, the argument for the bridge may not stack up.

Economist George Kervan said the idea of a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland was not new, and that cost could prevent it becoming a reality.

"Big infrastructure projects can be transformative," he said.

"But the trouble with this one is just the costs will kill it.

"A bridge from Portpatrick would be about 21 miles - that is not really effective road transport.

"You'd probably need a tunnel if you want the connection but the geology doesn't really work there.

"And £15bn - I can think of a lot of other things to do with that."

Economics expert Vicky Pryce agrees: "You would have to do a proper cost-benefit analysis and from the sound of it, it doesn't suggest it would pass the test.

"There would have to be other reasons why one would be pushing for building it."

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