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Department will not engage with Republic over proposed £50m Newry bridge design

The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) will not seek to engage with a Shared Island Unit over a proposed £50m Newry bridge design despite a council’s concerns.

Plans for the Southern Relief Road bridge will look to link traffic from Warrenpoint harbour area to the A1 bypass for onward journeys to Belfast and Dublin.

A refusal by DfI to create an opening bridge for tall ships to pass under has led to Newry, Mourne and Down District Council (NMDDC) urging a re-think by the department to seek financial assistance from the government in the Republic of Ireland.

Dr Julie Harrison, DfI permanent secretary has responded to the request, saying: “Departmental colleagues will continue to advance the project, however, any contribution or support for any project from the Irish government would be a matter for them to consider.

“To be clear, the department explored all engineering options for the crossing of Newry Canal.

“These included a lock gate option which would have necessitated extensive engineering works to achieve the additional 25m clearance required, significantly impacting the Scheduled Monument (Newry Canal).

“The cost of this option was estimated to exceed £50m.

“Operation of the local bridge would have required a significant volume of water to be pumped in and out for one vessel, which would have taken a full day to achieve.

“However, experience confirms that cost savings in construction would be outweighed by the implications of operation and maintenance.

“I would also note that any change to the design of the bridge at this stage would ultimately delay the delivery of the scheme. The period of delay would be subject to the level of amendments.”

The council is set to meet next week to discuss the permanent secretary’s response.

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