The government has confirmed that a fixed link between Wales and the Republic of Ireland is being formally considered, though only as a “comparator” to the notion promoted by prime minister Boris Johnson of a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Baroness Charlotte Vere, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Transport, said yesterday that a route between Holyhead in north Wales and the Irish capital Dublin is under consideration as part of the Fixed Link Feasibility Study begun in March. That independent study is being led by Douglas Oakervee, former chairman of HS2 and Crossrail, and Gordon Masterson, former vice-president of Jacobs Engineering.
In response to a written question tabled by a Liberal Democrat peer regarding an “underwater tunnel”, Baroness Vere said: “As with any assessment at this early stage, it is important to consider the broad range of options, so a route between Holyhead and Dublin is being assessed as a comparator. Since this route is not the main focus of the study, only high-level discussions around it have taken place. These have been facilitated by the independent technical team leading the study.”
Last month, transport secretary Grant Shapps floated the possibility of a Wales-Ireland link an interview with the Financial Times, suggesting it as a potential alternative to the Scotland-Northern Ireland bridge put forward by the prime minister. “I don’t know whether it should be there [via Scotland] or to Wales,” he told the newspaper.
The Fixed Link Feasibility Study was initiated as part of the Union Connectivity Review (UCR), a wide-ranging study of the economic potential of UK infrastructure chaired by Sir Peter Hendy, launched by Shapps in October last year.
In November, Hendy told the Railway Industry Association conference that he felt a fixed link across the Irish Sea would be more practical as a tunnel than a bridge. In an interim UCR report published in March this year, Hendy explained he had engaged Oakervee and Masterson to “assess the feasibility, cost and timescales” of constructing a fixed link.
Earlier this month CN’s sister publication New Civil Engineer described one potential Holyhead-Dublin plan of action: a £200bn project that would see the construction of two 5km-long artificial islands in the Irish Sea, reached via 40km bridges, with a 45km central tunnel connecting the new islands.
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Plans for Wales-Ireland tunnel being considered by government – Lem Bingley – 2021-06-17 13:14:47