Currently, the route from Northern Ireland to Scotland is via the Stranraer ferry, this is a slow route and often closed due to bad weather. All this will be a thing of the past once a new combined tunnel and bridge project completes in 2025.
The route will run from Ballycastle in Northern Ireland, North to Rathlin Island and then across to Machrihanish on the Scottish peninsula. The existing A38 to Campbeltown will be upgraded to a motorway and the bridge will then continue over to Blackfootwater on the Isle of Arran. Again the local roads will be upgraded and the last stretch of the project will tunnel to a location just north of Ardrossan on the mainland. The project is expected to cut the truck journey time from Belfast to Glasgow by up to 1 hour and will avoid long tailbacks in the ports. The bridge sections will be double-decker to allow trains on the lower deck to use the route simultaneously.
The project is based on a proposal from a cross border think tank. The prime contractor is Finn MacCool who will be working with the Scottish engineering company Benandonner. Fionn mac Cumhaill the CEO of Finn MacCool explained that the project works with the natural geography of the area. The basalt bedrock will form a solid platform for the bridge supports and the tunnel section will run through a band of softer Devonian sandstone. When asked if there were any specific challenges for project Fionn laughed “Rain, it always rains on Arran”.
Not everyone is happy with the project though. Katie Murchie from The Auld Cairn Guest House, Cairnryan said that a large portion of their seasonal business is from the ferry service. They expect a big reduction in food sales and B&B customers. “I’ll miss the truckers and their hot sausages on a winter morning”, she said.