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Politicians debate merits of Dunlop’s Celtic crossing

The Forth Bridge

Alan Dunlop’s proposed bridge between Scotland and Ireland has been debated by politicians in Dublin

Scottish minister for UK negotiations on Scotland’s place in Europe Michael Russell and Irish spokesperson on European Affairs Neale Richmond both backed further talks about a crossing.

Dunlop, who is professor of architecture at Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University, told the National newspaper last month that a bridge between Portpatrick and Bangor or Larne could help create a ‘Celtic Powerhouse’.

Richmond, a member of Ireland’s Seanad upper house, raised the subject of the crossing when Russell visited Dublin this week to address the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs.

Richmond said: ‘You mention the idea of a Celtic arc, which has been discussed quite imaginatively by one of your colleagues talking about a bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland. That’s well and good and something to aspire to … there are obvious commonalities between our two countries.’

Russell replied: ‘I’ve seen many proposals for fixed links. In the 19th century there was a proposal for a railway tunnel between the North of Ireland and Campbeltown. I think it’s a great idea. It would open up my constituency; that’s the route I would like to see. There’s a lot of talking to be done about that but I think it would be important that talking starts.’

Dunlop said last month that a bridge between Mull of Kintyre, near Campbeltown, and Torr Head on the Northern Irish coast would cost about £12 billion.

But he said a crossing further south, between Portpatrick and Bangor or Larne, would have more benefits, despite costing more.

‘[This] would be better and the setting more dramatic – you could potentially see it from Whitehaven, the Lake District and the Isle of Man,’ he said.

‘While much more costly because of the geological and environmental challenges, it would also reinvigorate the area around Stranraer and potentially the whole Ayrshire coast from Troon to Stranraer and the whole north coastline of the Solway Firth for people coming from the North of England.

‘I would estimate that option to cost about £15-20 billion as a conservative estimate.’


Readers' comments (11)

  • Phil Parker

    Would rather have a debate about the housing crisis in this country than rehashing old viability reports about a bridge linking Scotland to Ireland. ‘Academics’ should encourage fresh ideas and innovation - the proposal being put forward does not fall in this category.

    The bridge would need to be 16 Times the length of the Forth bridge! It would be multi-span and require dozens of piers across the channel. There are numerous bridges in North America built across relatively shallow water which go on as causeways for mile after mile. But we’re not talking about shallow water here - this is essentially next to the Atlantic Ocean, in very deep water.

    The length suits a tunnel but it would likely have to be a rail tunnel, rather than a road tunnel, as it is hard to get the ventilation right. Then there’s is that track gauge difference in Ireland and the UK.......

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  • Indeed Phil, just one damn thing after another.

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  • MacKenzie Architects

    Indeed, Alan, the better the questions, the more accurate you would hope the budget would be. Government has a wretched record in guessing the price of anything.
    Nothing at all wrong with the idea, but getting to Cambelltown doesn't get you to Glasgow or the railways, although a further series of bridges and tunnels linking up the Clyde peninsulas and islands could turn the West of Scotland into Vancouver / Seattle.
    Also opening up the North-West Passage to trade from Korea, China, Eastern Russia, brings massive trade to Irish Sea. *

    Portpatrick would be cheaper once you hit landfall, but then all trade would go straight to England, and miss out Scotland's main population centres.

    * We talked to the old Scottish Office years ago about who was doing 30-year strategic planning like this, they confessed to naeb'dy daein' nuthin'.

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  • "All greatness stands firm in the Storm" Plato's "Republic"

    Although the public response has been staggering and overwhelmingly positive both sides of the Irish Sea and internationally, the economic case for a bridge connection between Scotland and Ireland is building and becoming more convincing, otherwise Scotland and Ireland's leading politicians would have given the idea short shrift.

    The proposal for a shorter 12 mile connection from the Antrim coast to the Mull of Kintyre then onward via a number of smaller bridges, Dunoon to Gourock for example and new road connections now seems possible. Thereby cutting the journey time to the central belt of Scotland significantly. The technology now exists to also span over Beaufort's Dyke.

    As for "encouraging fresh ideas and innovation" and students addressing the housing crisis, that is exactly what my own unit is doing in a two year MArch research and design study.

    https://homesssrgu.wixsite.com/unit2 If nothing else listen to the poem at the start, it is brilliant.

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  • And it might help the people of Ulster and the people of Scotland to
    make a new northern union to fight Brexit, and encompass England with a ring of willing Remainers ( and find an easier and more natural and historical border - along the Scottish Marches - to defend).

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  • Phil Parker


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  • For Alan Dunlop: the extreme topography of the Mull of Kintyre (in contrast to that of most of the Kintyre peninsula) combined with the rich archaeology of the southern slopes of this giant headland would surely demand a tunnel for the first four miles from the bridge as far as the strath behind Karskiey Bay.
    To blast a trunk road along this coast would be extreme vandalism and possibly more expensive than a tunnel.
    To maximise the social and economic benefits of the Kintyre route it would surely be worth considering the road - via tunnels or bridges - 'touching base' in Bute on the way from Mid Argyll to Dunoon.
    All this is would be more 'do-able' than many might think - just drive down the Norway coast.

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  • Yes, I agree Robert that would be extreme vandalism and a tunnel, not a trunk road the best proposal for this stretch.

    A precedent also exists for a tunnel to connect the Mull of Kintyre to the Antrim coast. As you will know, Japan's Seikan Sea Tunnel connects Honshu and Hokkaido and runs for 14 miles partly above a sea bed equivalent in depth to the sea around the Kintyre Coast. A tunnel here would be achievable and an engineering challenge but frankly less interesting, architecturally.

    I also agree about the social and economic benefits of the Kintyre route However, there would also be benefits to the Ayrshire coast in connecting Larne to Portpatrick. The once thriving towns of Girvan, Ayr, Prestwick andTroon along the A77 would be revived. Both routes are being considered.

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  • Phil Parker

    Reminds me of the children’s nursery rhyme:

    Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
    And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Kintyre
    Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
    And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Academiahlee…

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  • How very droll Phil and once more just bursting with whimsey.

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