Plans to build the first cross-border bridge since the foundation of the State have been shelved after it emerged the cost of the project had been substantially underestimated.

It was originally expected the bridge near Omeath in Co Louth and Warrenpoint in Co Down would cost around €17.4m.

However, tenders came in significantly above that figure, leading Louth Co Council to put the project on hold.

The council today said the tenders for the 195m cable-stay bridge across the river Newry at Narrow Water ranged from €26m to €40m, with VAT then to be added on top of that.

A spokesperson for the council said having examined the tenders they were clearly well above the budget estimate.

It had been planned the bridge would be built with support from the Government, the Northern Executive and the EU.

However, because of the higher-than-expected tenders, the spokesperson said the project has been put on hold while other possible ways of funding the bridge are examined.

However, given that there is a time limit for use of the EU money, which had been the bulk of the €17.4m, it now appears unlikely the bridge will go ahead.