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A Bridge Too Far? The Narrow Water Bridge Project is on hold. Photograph: Columba O'Hare Local Chamber Presidents from Newry, Kilkeel, Warrenpoint and Dundalk met earlier this month following the Louth County Council announcement that the proposed cross-border Narrow Water Bridge to link Co Louth with Co Down has been put on hold after tenders received from construction companies for the project ran substantially above the allocated budget. Tenders  received  ranged from €26m to €40m plus VAT.

Following the meeting a joint statement was released requesting that "An innovative strategy be developed and implemented by Louth County Council, Newry and Mourne District Council and the East Border Regional Committee to identify the necessary resources required to meet the funding shortfall for the proposed Narrow Water Bridge Project."

The four Chamber of Commerce Presidents added that the construction of the Narrow Water Bridge was crucial for the continued development of tourism business growth and economic relationships in the Newry and Mourne and Louth regions. They also called for immediate support from the NI Assembly, Dáil Eireann and Westminster to jointly use their resources to ensure one of the largest capital projects in the Province is completed as per the original timetable.

The bridge across the Newry River at Narrow Water has the support of the Republic of Ireland of Ireland and Northern Ireland governments and secured funding of approximately €17.4m earlier this year from the INTERREG IVA programme administered by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). The project also won approval last year from An Bord Pleanála and the Northern Ireland planning authorities.

A spokesperson for Louth County Council said today: “Having examined all of the tenders received from contractors competing to build the bridge, it is clear that their estimates of the cost of construction are considerably higher than the figures we have been working with to date. This leaves us with a substantial funding shortfall. Our focus now is on seeing if this can be filled through any combination of additional funding and cost reductions.

“While our ambition remains to see this socially and economically desirable project through to completion, the reality is that it is now effectively on hold. At this time, we want to record our appreciation for the support that we have received to date from all of the various stakeholders in both the Republic and Northern Ireland.”

The current Narrow Water Bridge project commenced in 2008 when Louth County Council engaged Roughan O’Donovan Consulting Engineers to design a bridge in keeping with the outstanding natural beauty in the area. The same company designed the Mary McAleese Boyne Valley Bridge on the M1 Dublin-Belfast motorway.

The single-carriageway, 195 metres cable-stayed Narrow Water Bridge was designed to connect Cornamucklagh near Omeath, Co Louth with Narrow Water near Warrenpoint, Co Down and the total length of the proposed scheme is 620m.

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