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NI-Scotland tunnel proposal stirs up controversy

Image credit: Dreamstime

The industry body High Speed Rail Group (HSRG) has proposed building a railway tunnel between Scotland and Northern Ireland (NI) as a way to improve connectivity and trade between the two parts of the UK.

In particular, HSRG said it would bind NI closer to the rest of the UK as well as improve post-Brexit trading arrangements.

The tunnel would run between the NI town of Larne and the Scottish town of Stranraer which are around 31 miles apart. 

The idea behind the project is to boost the regional and wider UK economy by making it quicker for people to travel and transport goods.

But a preferred route for the tunnel would have to be diverted to avoid Beaufort’s Dyke, a 0.3km deep trench in the Irish Sea.

The tunnel could serve as an alternative to a mooted Irish Sea Bridge which would cross the North Channel between Larne and Portpatrick in Dumfries and Galloway. The government started seriously looking into that proposal in February last year.

But Nichola Mallon, who is NI’s minister for infrastructure, poured scorn on the tunnel proposal, warning that it was a “Tory glamour project”.

Speaking to the Irish Times, she said: “Boris Johnson has had many new plans mooted for Northern Ireland, be it the Boris Bridge or Boris Burrow but it would be better for Boris to be focusing his efforts less on Tory glamour projects and more on fixing the multiple problems in front of him

“I also want to be clear and remind the British government that devolved power rests here, not in London and ministers here should decide on projects for Northern Ireland because we are locally elected and locally accountable.”

The tunnel proposal is one of a number of ideas put forward by HSRG in its submission to an upcoming review into improving transport connectivity between the four nations of the UK, conducted by Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy.

A British government spokesperson said “his recommendations will be published in due course.”

A similar project linking Germany with Denmark via the Baltic Sea with an 11-mile tunnel is currently under way with a proposed completion date of 2029.

In 2018, China opened a 24-mile bridge-tunnel system connecting Hong Kong with the mainland following a 10-year construction period.

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