The UK Government is investigating building a tunnel between southwest Scotland and Northern Ireland, not a bridge, a minister has revealed.
The Prime Minister has championed the idea of a new fixed link to Northern Ireland and has spoken about it being a bridge (LTT 21 Feb). But Scottish secretary Alister Jack told a committee of the Scottish Parliament earlier this month: “I am very keen on the idea. However, I am not keen on building a bridge; I am keen on building a tunnel.
“The tunnel – we are not talking about a bridge – is at the discussion stage, and it may move to the feasibility stage.
“It would be the same distance as the Channel Tunnel – 22 miles,” he said, and “no different to the tunnels that connect the Faroe Islands or the tunnels that go under the fjords [in Norway]”.
“A tunnel would remove the problem of Beaufort’s Dyke and the munitions dumped there – allegedly, one million tonnes of World War Two munitions were dumped there – and it would deal with the problem of weather. If there was a bridge, because of the weather or the wind, there could easily be 100 days a year when that bridge would not operate.
“If there is to be a tunnel, before that is completed, the A75 and A77 would have to be upgraded,” said Jack.
The A75 connects Stranraer to the A74(M), which becomes the M6 south of the Scottish border. The A77 connects Stranraer with Ayr and Kilmarnock where it feeds into the M77 to Glasgow.
Jack went on: “If the Prime Minister decides to press the button, as it is entirely his decision, we would engage with Stormont and Holyrood in order to get a better understanding of the benefits and challenges.
“We would not ride in roughshod and slam a tunnel in, by the way, under the devolution settlement, nor can we.”
MSPs did not ask Jack if the investigations were of a road tunnel or a rail tunnel. Greengauge, the organisation that helped put HS2 on the political map, has championed a tunnel and said it should be rail-based, carrying intercity trains, freight trains, and shuttles for road vehicles (LTT 24 Jan).
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