Sun, 01 Aug 2021

LONDON, England: Britain is considering connecting Northern Ireland to the UK by bridge or tunnel.

At its narrowest, the two islands are only 12 miles apart across the Irish Sea.

The initial evaluation for such a link is expected to be released this summer.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has supported a bridge design, and Scottish architect Alan Dunlop has released his design for a rail-and-road bridge between Portpatrick in Scotland and Larne in Northern Ireland.

The many advantages of such a link would include establishing trade links between Northern Ireland and the UK following disruptions caused by Brexit.

Problems confronted by such a project are numerous, including geological and environmental challenges, along with economics, infrastructure and entrenched local politics.

However, the plans to link the two islands have been met with doubts by Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, describing it as a diversion from "the real issues," while Northern Ireland's Sinn Fin Deputy Leader Michelle O'Neill called it a "pipe dream bridge."

Two critical questions that need to be answered are whether the construction of a bridge spanning the two islands is feasible, and is it economically realistic?

However, before any construction could begin, Beaufort's Dyke, a 50-kilometer-long natural trench used as a dumping ground, would need to be cleared of unexploded aerial bombs and radioactive debris.

Experts believe one to ten large munitions per day would need to be removed before construction could begin.

Margaret Stewart, a marine geoscientist from the British Geological Survey, told BBC that if foundations are poured for a bridge or tunnel, "You need to be confident that the area in which you're about to place equipment or assets or people is sufficiently clear to allow the safe mooring or positioning of the vessels and everything else.

"What you don't want is to clear an area around the bridge, only for it to, over time, have migrated munitions move up against the base of the bridge."

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