The Prime Minister has previously talked up the creation of a fixed link to boost connectivity, but the idea has been scrapped because it’s too expensive and technically challenging
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Boris Johnson’s dream Brexit bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland would have cost £335billion and taken almost 30 years to plan and construct, a report ordered by the Prime Minister revealed.
The idea for a tunnel came after experts ridiculed proposals for a bridge over the water.
But others pointed out a route beneath the Irish Sea could disturb an arms dump in the Beaufort Dyke, where an estimated 1.17 million tonnes of conventional and chemical weapons have been dropped.
The channel between Portpatrick and Larne is almost 1,000ft deep and may contain unexploded Second World War bombs.
Transport expert Sir Peter Hendy’s study into how better to connect parts of the UK hammered the final nail into the coffin of the PM’s hopes of a link across the Irish Sea.
In a detailed report drawn up for No10, Sir Peter said: “The indicative cost estimate for the full route, including optimism bias is £335bn for a bridge crossing and £209bn for a tunnel crossing.
“The bridge or tunnel, and the associated very significant works on either side for a railway and possibly for roads would take a very long time.
“Planning, design, parliamentary and legal processes, and construction would take nearly 30 years before the crossing could become operational, even given a smooth passage of funding and authority to proceed.
“Whilst the economic and social effects would be transformational, the costs would be impossible to justify, given the Government’s already very significant commitment to long term transport infrastructure improvement for levelling up, and the further likely significant expenditure which would result from the further studies I am suggesting in my main report.”
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Mr Johnson’s spokesman said the report showed “cutting-edge, 21st Century, civil engineering technology would make it possible to construct either a bridge or a tunnel between Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.
But the spokesman added: “However, Sir Peter recommended – and government agrees – that further work on the fixed link should not progress beyond the feasibility study at this time.”
Network Rail’s chairman Sir Peter was asked to investigate the possibility of a fixed link, believing it would strengthen ties between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
But the Union Connectivity Review, published today recommended that “for improved connectivity with Northern Ireland, upgrading the key A75 link to improve freight and passenger connectivity” instead.
The A75 goes to Stranraer and its ferry ports.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Transport is devolved to Holyrood and the UK Government should respect that.
“We will always seek to engage constructively with the UK Government – for example, on cross-border rail and our shared desire for HS2 to serve Scotland – but UK ministers have no role in deciding investment in Scotland’s trunk roads.
“Scottish ministers have not been sighted on the recommendations of the Union Connectivity report, however if UK ministers really want to play a helpful role, then they could simply deliver the funding we need for such infrastructure investment in line with established budgetary mechanisms for Scotland to determine our spending priorities.”