Interview: Scotland-Northern Ireland bridge makes technical, economic sense, says architect

Source: Xinhua| 2020-02-15 22:56:49|Editor: yhy
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LONDON, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- A road and rail crossing from Scotland to Northern Ireland is technically feasible, and would help boost the economy for both sides of the crossing and foster even closer connection between the two parts in a shifting post-Brexit climate, a leading British architect has said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman said earlier this week that the British government is carrying out work in relation to the idea of a bridge linking the Great Britain mainland to Northern Ireland, according to the English newspaper The Guardian.

Alan Dunlop, who was commissioned to deliver a feasibility study of the project in 2018, is one of the country's leading architects based in Glasgow, a visiting professor at Robert Gordon University and a fellow of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland.

"I was asked to look into the proposition in 2018, but the idea or a version of the idea is an ancient one," Dunlop told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Responding to the technical challenges, the architect admitted that the North Irish Sea is very deep at the center. However, foreign successful cases can provide valuable experience and expertise.

The architect said one of his inspirations for the bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland is the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge in China, an example of what can be achieved in structure and design.

"It (the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge) is a remarkable structure. I talk about it a great deal in interviews, " he said.

"It would also be advantageous to seek design expertise from China on the building of large scale bridges and transportation projects," he added.

The inauguration of the newly-constructed 55-km-long Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge in October 2018 after about nine years of building, including a 6.7-km-long immersed tunnel, marked a landmark in the development plan of the the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area (GBA).

The GBA development plan, part of China's overall reform and opening up strategy, has sought not only to turn the region into a massive cluster for advanced industries, but also to catch up with the world's leading economic hubs.

Dunlop also noted a possible solution is being pioneered in Norway. The 1100-km Norwegian Coastal Highway project will cross 20 fjords once completed by 2026, some more than 600 meters deep, using floating bridges and tunnel connections.

"The Norwegian Coastal Highway is a pioneering and remarkable infrastructure project and a sign of confidence for a forward looking innovative country," he said, believing Scotland and Northern Ireland can make the similar achievement.

Responding to another thorny issue, the cost of the project, Dunlop estimates that the anticipated "Celtic Bridge" linking Portpatrick in Scotland with Larne in Northern Ireland will cost 15 billion (19.5 billion U.S. dollars) to 20 billion pounds (26.1 billion dollars), but some critics argued that sum of money could be spent on more important priorities.

Dunlop deeply agreed with the Chinese saying "building the road is the first step to become rich", and applauded the infrastructure work being currently undertaken throughout China as "innovative and very impressive".

"From the economic perspective, I studied and made a comparison with bridges throughout the world, built within the last twenty years under difficult circumstances, particularly with the Oresund Bridge," he said.

The architect noted that, the Oresund Bridge, connecting Copenhagen in Denmark with Malmo in Sweden, has made a return of more than double of its initial investment since its opening nearly 20 years ago with more than 25 million people using the crossing each year.

Dunlop suggested overseas investment could be incorporated into the project besides possible joint funding by the Westminster, Scottish and Northern Irish governments.

"There could be investment from overseas encouraged and incorporated including from China," he said.