I wrote a few days ago about the proposed bridge across Carlingford Lough at Narrowwater (or Narrow Water). I was reminded of that today on reading a debate, held in the Northern Ireland Assembly on 30 September 2013, about a proposed Newry Southern Relief Road [thanks to theyworkforyou.com].
Apart from an admittedly minor mistake made by a Sinn Féin MLA about the Newry Canal (first summit-level canal, not “oldest inland waterway” in These Islands), the debate was remarkable for its demonstration of cross-party agreement: not so much on the desirability of public works (a desideratum of Irish politicians since the eighteenth century) as on the irrelevance of the Narrowwater bridge. Jim Wells [DUP] said:
There has also been some progress on the Narrow Water bridge project, although we do not know exactly where we stand. First, that bridge is far from certain, and, secondly, even if it were built, it would not relieve much of the traffic that we are dealing with. It would certainly not relieve the large number of juggernauts coming through from Warrenpoint harbour.
Sean Rogers [SDLP] said:
Narrow Water bridge is merely a tourist bridge, but the relief road would take heavy goods vehicles off the streets of Newry, reduce traffic congestion and attract even more shoppers to the city. Heavy goods vehicles would also have a direct route to Warrenpoint port, increasing trade in the port area.
And the other contributors to the debate did not mention it, which suggests to me that it is seen as irrelevant to the traffic problems of Warrenpoint and of Newry.
The Minister for Regional Development, Danny Kennedy [UUP], gave a lengthy response to the debate, including this point:
A more detailed technical investigation of the specific options for crossing the Newry canal was also recommended, given the sensitive nature of this important heritage feature. It is expected to require at least the provision of a bascule, or lifting bridge, to allow the passage of tall ships on the canal. The width of the Victoria lock already limits the size of ship that can enter the canal and it is expected that any bridge would maintain a navigation channel that matches the width of the sea lock. My Department will continue to consult with NIEA on how the impact of the proposal on the canal might be mitigated and an appropriate design developed.
And it seems that one of the areas being considered for the road is Fathom, which is where the Victoria Lock is. It is a short distance north (and upstream) of the border.
It must surely be unlikely that there will be two crossings of Carlingford or the Newry River [and canal] within a few miles of each other. But if one option, the Newry Southern Relief Road, helps to relieve Newry and Warrenpoint traffic and the other, the Narrowwater bridge, doesn’t do so, then the first option would seem to be the rational choice.
Although I wouldn’t bother providing for “tall ships”.