Boris Johnson’s proposed bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland could recoup some of its construction costs by using tidal energy at the ends of the structure, a consultant believes.
Last week it emerged that the prime minister had commissioned a study into the costs and risks of the project from the Department for Transport.
The design or potential locations of such a bridge have not yet been officially unveiled, but the prime minister was quoted in The Times on Friday as telling a group of schoolchildren that “building a bridge from Stranraer in Scotland to Larne in Northern Ireland … would be very good”.
He is reported to have claimed the project “would only cost about £15bn”.
Arcardis Scottish Cities executive Graham Hill said that building a bridge across the Irish Sea would have “significant challenges to overcome”.
He added: “The cost of these solutions may make the business case hard to justify in economic terms, but there could be wider benefits that would help the project progress.
“One option might be to consider the opportunity to harness tidal energy from approach link causeways.”
Two major tidal energy schemes have stalled in recent years with both the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon and Severn Barrage plans stymied by costs.
Northern Ireland was the site of one of the UK’s earliest commercial tidal power projects at Strangford Lough in 2008.
On Mr Johnson’s bridge idea, WSP head of civil bridge and ground engineering Steve Denton said the economic case would need “very careful consideration”.
He added: “Ambitious projects inspire engineers and this would certainly fall into that category.
“Bridges are designed for a long life and the ongoing management and maintenance of such a structure would need to be a key focus. Specific design criteria and loading conditions would be needed, beyond our current design standards – but engineers always welcome a challenge.”
During a discussion at last week’s London First London Infrastructure Summit, Laing O’Rourke technical director Sarah Williamson called on Mr Johnson to listen to experts on how to deliver the project.
“If I would give any advice it would be to just listen to the industry,” she said.
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