PROPOSALS for a 25-mile underground tunnel linking Stranraer and Larne are “unrealistic and unlikely”, one of the region’s MSPs has said.
South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth welcomed news that the previous idea of a bridge link between Great Britain and Northern Ireland had been scrapped, saying this week: “Someone in the UK Government has eventually realised that we don’t have a Mediterranean climate in the Irish sea and any bridge would have been closed for half of the year, not to mention the small issue of millions of tonnes of explosives lying in the path of any bridge structure.”
And he slammed emerging replacement plans to construct a tunnel instead.
Mr Smyth, who is also his party’s transport spokesperson, added: “It may be fine to say it is feasible but another that it should be a priority. If the UK Government has billions of pounds to spend on transport links in the south west of Scotland, it would do better to spend the cash on reopening the Dumfries to Stranraer rail line and dualling the A75 and A77.
“Despite the importance of Cairnryan Ferry Port, road and rail links have been neglected again and again. Talk of building a tunnel might grab headlines just before an election but people who live in the area and those who use the ferries on a regular basis need real solutions now to the many transport problems which have existed for years.”
Reports have indicated that such proposals could be approved within weeks. Furthermore, Network Rail’s chairman Sir Peter Wendy is soon due to publish a report detailing the feasibility of the scheme.
Supporters argue the major project — costed at around £20 billion — would not be dissimilar to the existing Channel Tunnel between Dover and Calais, and would fully connect all four UK nations.
Meanwhile, Alister Jack, MP for Dumfries and Galloway, has backed the plans. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast last week he said: “You say bridge. I say tunnel. I think a bridge would be closed for probably 100 days a year with the weather in the Irish Sea.”
The Scottish Secretary said it was his “strong inclination” that the Prime Minister, who first supported a Stranraer to Larne link in 2018 during his tenure as foreign secretary, believes the tunnel should be constructed.
He added: “He and I have had conversations about the weather patterns in the Irish Sea and Beaufort’s Dyke, and there’s a munitions deposit there.”