Experts say to forget building a bridge as a tunnel may be the best way to link Northern Ireland and mainland UK.
According to the experts at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), the original plans to build a bridge to link Northern Ireland and mainland UK may not be as viable as initially thought. Instead of making a bridge, the Institution of Civil Engineers have created an imaginative plan to link Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK.
Proposed tunnel under the Irish Sea
The new and imaginative plan produced by the Institution of Civil Engineers proposes that, instead of building a bridge to link Northern Ireland and mainland UK, it would be more efficient and beneficial to construct a tunnel underneath the Irish Sea.
The plan suggests that two specific tunnels should be constructed, one which will connect England to the Isle of Man, and a second which will connect the Isle of Man to County Down.
Why tunnels instead of a bridge?
The Institution of Civil Engineers argue that their proposal to construct tunnels would be better than building a bridge because a rail tunnel would not be affected by any possible bad weather. They also argue that a rail tunnel would avoid any problems in spanning Beaufort Dyke, a deep-sea trench located in the North Channel containing over a million tonnes of dumped wartime munitions.
This plan is the latest of a long list of proposed tunnel projects which have been put forward by the Institution of Civil Engineers. Other proposed plans include a tunnel to link Hampshire to the Isle of Wight, a new tunnel under the Thames, and another which would run under the Bristol Channel and connect the West Country and Wales.
The positives of the proposed tunnel
When asked as to why the tunnel would prove to be the best option to link Northern Ireland and mainland UK, Bill Grose, a former chairman of the British Tunnelling Society and the lead author of the ICE report, told the Sunday Times: “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.
“As prices continue to fall, tunnels will become increasingly attractive as a way of connecting the United Kingdom. It costs about £50m per kilometre for a twin rail tunnel, but costs are falling. When we reduce them by another 50%, tunnelling will become popular and very long tunnels become feasible.
“Tunnels and bridges cost much the same – but tunnels are not prone to bad weather.“
An ambitious proposal
While the proposals are very ambitious, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is rumoured to be very interested in them as he has plans for major construction projects to unite the UK in the post-Brexit era.
In September of last year, it was revealed that Mr Johnson had inquired with government officials concerning advice on the potential costs and risks which would be involved with building a bridge to link Scotland to Northern Ireland.
The proposed tunnel from England to the Isle of Man is close to 50 miles, and the distance from the Isle of Man to Northern Ireland is estimated to be over 30 miles. As it stands, the initial estimates project that the cost for the tunnel would be approximately £15bn.
Currently, the world’s longest railway tunnel is the 35 mile Gotthard Base Tunnel which runs under the Swiss Alps and was opened in 2016.