Institute proposes 80km tunnel between Ireland and Wales

A Welsh think tank has proposed the construction of a $23.5bn tunnel between Dublin and Holyhead on the island of Anglesey. The link, which is contained in the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport’s "Vision 20:35 Cymru Wales" report, would be of "European significance".  

The Irish government has also called for improved links with the UK and the mainland of Europe. However, the office of the taoiseach in Dublin said a tunnel at the price estimated would be too expensive. 

Stuart Cole, a professor at the Transport Research Centre at the University of South Wales, told BBC News that cost would not be an issue.   

He said: "We’re talking about something like £15bn, something like the cost of High Speed Rail between London and Birmingham. We’re not talking about a massive amount of money in the world of governments. Also, much of this money would come from the European Commission." 

Andrew Potter, the chair of the logistics institute, said: "As an essential part of the economy, it is hoped Vision 2035 provides a long-term view of transport in Wales. By thinking now about the opportunities and challenges ahead, better solutions can be found that make a real difference to passengers and businesses alike." 

As well as the tunnel, the institute’s report called for the electrification of railways in Wales to cut the journey time between London and Cardiff to an hour.  

This proposal has more likelihood of success, as the Welsh and British governments agreed a funding deal to upgrade railways in South Wales on 21 November, following arguments stretching back for two years.  

The British government will provide $360m to cover the cost of electrifying the Great Western Main Line to Swansea. The Welsh government will provide the remaining $270m, which it hopes to recoup through ticket sales. 

Work on the improvements is expected to start in 2019, after the railways devolve to the Welsh government in 2018. 

The tunnel is not the first suggested link between Ireland and Great Britain. Other schemes have been discussed for decades. The four main candidates (pictured) are the southern Tuskar Route between Fishguard and Rosslare, the Irish Mail Route between Holyhead and Dublin, the Galloway Route between Belfast and Stranraer, and the Kintyre Route between County Antrim and Campbeltown, which is the shortest of the four. 

The problem with a bridge on any of these routes is that it would be very long. The 32.5km Donghai Bridge linking Shanghai and the island of Yangshan is sometimes called the longest sea bridge, but a bridge to Northern Ireland or the Republic may be longer. 

Bill Grose, a former chairman of the British Tunnelling Society, told the BBC last year that there were two critical issues for siting the tunnel. First, the location that best meets demand, and second, the shortest distance across the sea. 

Holyhead to Dublin is about 80km, Fishguard to Rosslare is about 72km and Stranraer to Belfast is about 32km. The Campbeltown-County Antrim route is only 19km, but the town is in an isolated part of Scotland. 

Grose said: "Intuitively, Holyhead to Dublin is a more preferable route than the others. It’s closer to Manchester and Liverpool and connects straight into Dublin."

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