A new assessment commissioned by the British Ports Association (BPA) from a leading engineering firm estimates that a fixed-link between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, which is currently being considered by the Government, is likely to cost in the region of £40 billion, with a negligible return on investment.

Published by the BPA, the report; I Have a Bridge to Sell You: Making The Case for Port Connectivity, brings together an expert-led technical evaluation of the Government’s plans for a GB-NI fixed-link, with the BPA’s proposals for a Comprehensive Port Connectivity Programme. The report highlights how for a fraction of the funding, significant return on investment can be harnessed by the Exchequer by investing in more productive infrastructure.

Expert engineers warn of several key challenges which could make the project untenable:

Experts concluded that the scale and challenge of the project are unprecedented and as a result costs would be unmanageable.

Physical constraints, such as water depth and metocean conditions mean the option of a bridge is out of the question. However, the length and depth of water, dumped munitions and complex geology also mean a tunnel is also a challenging and costly prospect.

The project would also pour water on the Government’s green agenda, with the resulting modal shift from shipping to road (if the bridge was actually used by hauliers) would raise emissions by 133%. While the materials to even construct the link also come with staggering environmental costs.

Efficiency of freight transport would also be poor if the link was established. There is no natural place for Brexit checks of goods to occur and journey times will increase, with HGV drivers having to take a break before or after transiting the link to avoid breaking the law on legal limits for driving time.

Commenting, Phoebe Warneford-Thomson, Policy Manager and Economic Analyst at the British Ports Association and author of the report, said: “This report makes clear that Government’s suggestion of a fixed link between GB-NI represents a redundant and irresponsible use of public money. It would be much better spent on other infrastructure priorities.

The BPA has prepared a comprehensive port connectivity programme, which sets out a productive alternative plan for investment. Our plans are a fraction of the cost of the fixed-link, with an anticipated 400% return on investment derived through cost savings for businesses, with a positive impact on emissions and the net-zero agenda.

Our programme highlights key examples of work that should be undertaken to consider the matter of port connectivity, drawing on the work of the Government’s 2018 Port Connectivity Study and the BPA’s own research.”

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