Lough Erne the biggest challenge to £250m gas project

SPANNING close to the entire width of the North, the £250 million Gas to the West project is now about to face its greatest installation challenge in the shape of the B127 road’s two bridges spanning Upper Lough Erne.
The operation is understood to involve machine tunnelling under each bridge, compacting the displaced material, on top of bedrock at approximately 60 metres depth, preliminary test holes having been sunk to ascertain the underlying strata.
‘Sleeve’ pipelines and the gas mains will simultaneously be drawn through in single units, thereby avoiding any disruption to bridge traffic.
Lengths of pipeline equivalent to the span of each bridge are being constructed on specially acquired sites in preparation to being put in place under the bridges in what will be a major engineering task.
Linking Trasna Island to the lake’s western and eastern shores respectively, Lady Brooke and Lady Craigavon bridges were opened in 1932 to replace the existing ferry crossing between Corratistune and Corradillar quays.
Known locally as’ Fox’s ferry’, though operated for many years by John McBrien of Corratistune, it provided the only means of passage between the Derrylin/Teemore area and Lisnaskea.
Since partition had seen the former area cut off from its natural Cavan hinterland, the ferry
transporting people, goods and animals on a daily basis, the ferry formed a hugely important function but, in the years leading up to 1932, there was increasing clamour for two road bridges.
Following a huge number of signatories to a successful petition, construction work began in 1932, the 550 feet long arched Craigavon and the flat 410 feet Brooke bridges being completed in April 1935 at a cost of £40,000.
Known locally as the ‘new Bridges’, though too narrow to accommodate today’s traffic, a voluntary ‘give way’ system in operation, they have stood the test of time. Both though were targeted by bombers in different IRA campaigns, Brooke being damaged in a 1957 explosion after which permanent ‘B Special’ guard posts were installed on both until the early 1960’s.
Much more serious damage was caused by a 1991 explosion on Craigavon Bridge which necessitated its complete closure for a number of months, inflicting huge inconvenience on motorists and commercial traffic alike.
Once across Lady Brooke bridge, the installation work will proceed to Derrylin and on to its final destination of serving the Encirc glass factory as well as two Quinn Building Products plants along the Ballyconnell road.
Encirc has from the outset been a very strong supporter of the project as managing director, Adrian Curry, explained when the proposition to bring natural gas to the west of Northern Ireland was first announced;
“We have 440 jobs here in Derrylin and bringing natural gas to the region will be a significant factor in sustaining these jobs well into the future”, going on to add that; “At Encirc, we’re constantly looking for ways of working that can help us further improve the sustainability of our sites, so supporting Gas to the West was a natural fit for us”

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