Construction of a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland – an idea revived by architect Alan Dunlop last year – has been included in the Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) election manifesto
The DUP says the billions of pounds earmarked for High Speed 2 (HS2) would be better spent on other transport projects, including a link across the Irish Sea.
In September it was widely reported that prime minister and Conservative leader Boris Johnson had asked for a feasibility report into the proposed bridge with the Treasury and the Department for Transport asked to examine the scheme’s costs.
Now the DUP has spelled out its commitment to ‘take forward’ the ambitious crossing in its manifesto for the 2019 General Election on 12 December.
The document reads: ’If the feasibility study on a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland concludes positively, this should also be pursued with the national government and devolved institutions working together to take it forward.
’In the midst of the fevered debate about the likelihood or viability of this connection too many have chosen to ignore the importance of that route for business and people and the expensiveness of the NI-Scotland crossing currently, costs which are about to increase even more with the Shipping Low Sulphur Surcharge.’
It adds: ’[Meanwhile] The economic case for HS2 simply does not stand up. The scale of investment in one route cannot be justified. It is about making more of England a suburb of London than rebalancing and expanding the economy of the United Kingdom, and an unwillingness to stop a poor project simply because money has already been spent.’
Dunlop, the principal of Alan Dunlop Architects, has previously estimated the price tag for a crossing from Mull of Kintyre to Torr Head would be about £12 billion. But he argues that a bridge between Portpatrick and Bangor or Larne could have more benefits, though it would also cost more.
Experts have also suggested that a bridge could help break the Brexit stalemate by potentially removing the need for a border in the Irish Sea.
Johnson, who was famously the main supporter of the never-built Garden Bridge across The Thames, revealed his interest in a Scotland-to-Northern Ireland link last year when he was foreign secretary.
The notion of building across the Irish Sea is not new, but concept proposals, including plans for a huge tunnel which was put forward during the First World War, have never progressed.
Dunlop revived the idea of a Celtic Crossing in early 2018 in response to reports that Johnson wanted a bridge from England to France.
The architect told the AJ: ‘In the months that I’ve been leading and commenting on the bridge initiative, in the press and on television and radio, the most positive responses have come from the people of Northern Ireland. So, I am not surprised that the DUP have firmly incorporated the feasibility study into their manifesto, and that it has become such a significant part of their national infrastructure proposals.’
The DUP was the fifth-largest party in the House of Commons after the Conservatives, Labour, SNP and Lib Dems with 10 MPs out of 650 seats when Parliament dissolved on 6 November.