To improve connectivity between UK’s four constituent parts, rail industry leaders have proposed building a tunnel between Northern Ireland and Scotland. The Irish Sea project would help improve transport links among the UK nations.
The tunnel under the sea would connect Stranraer and Larne, as proposed by High Speed Rail Group (HSRG). Sir Peter Hendy led the review on the Irish Sea project and is expected to publish an interim report in a few weeks.
Larne and Stranraer are only 31 miles apart, and there is a preferred tunnel route between the two towns based on research by James Barton, a Victorian engineer. However, to avoid a 1000ft deep trench in the sea called Beaufort’s Dyke, the route will be diverted.
The HSRG claims that the proposed tunnel would connect Northern Ireland to Great Britain more closely, addressing the new economic status of Northern Ireland after Brexit. The project proposal states that with the tunnel’s construction, there would be the need for a new rail connection between Stranraer and Carlisle, while Ireland’s railway track’s width might need to be altered, too.
An HSRG board member, Jim Steer, said that the UK needs to address the need for improved transport links between the Kingdom’s four nations, which, he said, have been systematically neglected.” He linked cross-border train travel to economic prosperity and said that travel markets for rail were growing up to 2019 – this warrants a need to address the constraints in the transport network capacity so UK can gain economic stimulus from this source.
HSRG asks for requisite attentiveness to cross-border rail links to protect the whole of the UK economy in the future. The project proposal claimed that it had the backing of the Scottish parliament and the Northern Ireland assembly. It also said that the funding for the project would not interfere with other transport funding.
The idea of connecting Larne in Northern Ireland to Stranraer in Scotland by a bridge was suggested by the Prime Minister three years ago, but engineers had strongly disapproved of it. Experts had deemed the construction of a bridge over a deep and stormy stretch of water impractical and said that it would require support towers of height seen nowhere in the world.
According to a government spokesperson, Sir Peter Hendy has been asked to make recommendations on improving transport connectivity between Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England. Those recommendations will then be published.