The long discussed 'mythical' Narrow Water Bridge project has received a potential boost after getting a mention in the UK and Irish Governments 'New Decade New Approach' deal which aims to be a document to get the local political parties back to government in Stormont after a three year gap.

In a section entitled Turbocharging infrastructure the document claims the Executive will benefit from increased funding for capital infrastructure investment as a result of the UK Government’s infrastructure revolution.

An artists impression of the Narrow Water Bridge opening. Photograph: Louth County Council
An artists impression of the Narrow Water Bridge opening. Photograph: Louth County Council

One of the "range of potential capital projects"  that they will invest in is the Narrow Water Bridge though "Potential" is the word.

Further along in the document the Irish Government adds "The Government is also ready to jointly progress consideration of options for the development of the Narrow Water bridge project at the NSMC."

Other projects competing for attention along with the Warrenpoint one include the York Street interchange in Belfast, A5/A6 road and a 'Better Connecting Dublin and Belfast strategy'

The proposed Narrow Water Bridge would be located close to the roundabout at Narrow Water, Warrenpoint. The Bridge project's latest incarnation started back in 2008 but Arthur Lockhart the then Chairman of Newry & Mourne Council and Louth County Council Cathaoirleach, PJ O’Hare discussed the matter way back in 1976 and no doubt ideas existed even earlier.

The proposed bridge received planning permission approval back in 2012 for a  "New single carriageway cable stayed opening bridge across the Newry River tying into the existing A2 Roundabout. Associated works include a control building and a new navigation beacon."

An environmental impact statement carried out at the time detailed three options for the bridge, all opening to allow ships through unhindered, and  spoke of the need for navigation along the Newry River  "The bridge design was influenced by the requirement to allow continued navigation along the Newry River and the need to minimise the impacts on this sensitive receiving environment."

Another report also mentioned Navigational Constraints "A major design consideration for the Narrow Water Bridge is that it should open to facilitate the passage of marine vessels including tall ships. Newry and Mourne District Council have made a significant investment in Victoria Lock in recent years with the intention of attracting up to 90 vessels a year to the Newry Ship Canal and the Albert Basin. In light of this investment, the proposed Narrow Water Bridge should at least be able to accommodate any vessel heading for the Albert BasinIn addition, the proposed Narrow Water Bridge is required to facilitate the passage of Tall Ships. In 2007, the Tall Ships including the Artemis, the Jeannie Johnston, the Ruth and the Thalassa visited Newry."

If the Narrow Water project is advanced it raises the possibility of two major bridges being built within a short distance of each other to carry traffic to/from Warrenpoint with the proposed Southern Relief Road bridge carrying heavy goods traffic.

At present the 'preferred' option for the SRR bridge is for a fixed non-opening bridge several miles south of Newry across Newry Ship Canal which begs the question - If ships other than fishing vessels did travel through the opening Narrow Water Bridge, where exactly would they be going?

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