Boris Johnson’s dream of a bridge or tunnel from Scotland to Northern Ireland was shattered today as an official review found it would cost up to £335billion.
The PM expressed enthusiasm about the connection, and he said that it would help to strengthen the union following Brexit.
The idea was mocked by some as the’stupidest span in history’ and Tory MPs joked that trains would be “pulled along by unicorns”. Critics pointed to the possibility of having to clear out an enormous undersea weapons dump.
Sir Peter Hendy, Chairman of Network Rail was asked today by Mr Johnson for a feasibility study. He concluded that the benefits could not outweigh any costs.
He said the the full route could be as much as £335billion for a bridge crossing and £209billion for a tunnel crossing – many times higher than the figures that had previously been mooted. In a series of interviews, Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary said that the tunnel or fixed link was not going to be built.
Sir Peter said that future transport technology advances, especially autonomous vehicles could permit for new tunnel and bridge designs. This could make it possible to construct fixed transport links and approaches at lower costs.
“For the moment, however, the benefits cannot possibly outweigh any costs to the public budget.
“It is my recommendation that Government not continue work on fixed link beyond the feasibility study.”
In a little comfort to the PM, Sir Peter said: “Despite my recommendation,” I’m certain that this is an excellent question.
“For over a century, engineers and politicians have discussed this idea but without any concrete evidence as to whether or not it’s possible.
The proposed bridge or tunnel would have potentially run between Portpatrick in Scotland and Larne in County Antrim
Sir Peter Hendy of Network Rail was asked by the Prime Minster to start a feasibility report. However, it seems that he is now outlining such plans for the future.
The review concluded that said the the full route could be as much as £335billion for a bridge crossing and £209billion for a tunnel crossing – many times higher than the figures that had previously been mooted
As part of the Union Connectivity Review study, the bridge and tunnel concept was investigated. This review examined how to improve transport links between four UK countries.
Sir Peter claimed that the ‘cutting edge, twenty-first-century civil engineering technology made it possible to construct a bridge or tunnel between Britain & Northern Ireland.
However, he noted that the 41 km span would be the longest bridge constructed to date and that the tunnel at 84 km would be the longest.
Sir Peter said that a tunnel would be one of the longest underground tunnels ever constructed, given its limited gradients and how far it had to travel.
“A tunnel crossing can only be built for railway purposes, considering safety and technology today.”
“The requirement for a railway that runs on either a tunnel or bridge would require substantial construction. It also needs to be connected to the existing railway network. The complexity of the Irish rail gauge makes it more complicated than in Great Britain.
Simon Hoare mocked the notion when the possibility of crossing again emerged in February.
Echoing comments that the Channel Tunnel took 30 years to get built, and the issue of weapons that were sunk in the Irish Sea after the war, he tweeted: ‘The trains could be pulled by an inexhaustible herd of Unicorns overseen by stern, officious dodos.
A PushmePullYou might be the senior guard or Puff the Magic Dragon, the inspector.
“Let us concentrate on making Protocol work, and putting the hallucinogenics down.”
He said: “Also, another’minor hurdle’’ is that the NI rail gauge is an?’all Ireland’s” gauge. It is not like what is used in GB. Although I don’t know Brunel, I believe this could be a little problem.
Nicola Sturgeon rejected the suggestion and urged the Chancellor for funding to devolved authorities to address domestic issues.
In March last year, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘If you’ve got £20billion available to build a bridge, I’m pretty sure me and I’m sure equally the First Minister of Northern Ireland would be able to find things to spend that on right now that actually would be really useful to accelerate the progress to net-zero.’
Yesterday night, the PM indicated that he was open to accepting a recommendation for UKNET to be created. It will consist of representatives from all four nations and it will help identify and map ways to boost cross-border connectivity.
Henri Murison from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership stated: “With the Boris Bridge between Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland back inside its cereal box, it is now time to put our focus on projects that have strong economic arguments, such as the new Pennine Line running all the way from Manchester through Bradford to Leeds.”