Boris’ NI crossing dream shattered after assessment costs up to £335bn

Boris Johnson’s dream of a bridge or tunnel from Scotland to Northern Ireland was shattered today when an official assessment showed it would cost up to £335 billion.

The prime minister was enthusiastic about the link, which he believes could help strengthen the union after Brexit.

However, the proposal was derided as the “stupidest bridge in history”, with Tory MPs joked that the trains would be “pulled by unicorns.” Critics pointed out that it might be necessary to clear a huge submarine ammunition depot.

Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy was asked by Mr Johnson to carry out a feasibility study but concluded today that the ‘benefits cannot possibly outweigh the costs’.

He said the entire route could cost £335bn for a bridge crossing and £209bn for a tunnel crossing – many times higher than figures previously suggested. Transport Minister Grant Shapps said in a round of interview this morning: ‘The tunnel or fixed connection will not come.’

“Future technological developments in transport, especially autonomous vehicles, could lead to different tunnel and bridge designs, enabling the establishment of a fixed transport link and approaches at a lower cost,” wrote Sir Peter.

‘For the time being, however, the benefits cannot outweigh the costs for the state treasury.

‘That is why I advise the government to continue working on the fixed connection and not go further than this feasibility study.’

In a crumb of comfort to the Prime Minister, Sir Peter added: ‘Despite my recommendation, it is clear to me that this was an excellent question to ask.

“For decades politicians and engineers have debated this proposal, but without the evidence to show whether it was possible and, if so, what it took to do it.”

The proposed bridge or tunnel may have run between Portpatrick in Scotland and Larne in County Antrim

Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy (right) was asked by the Prime Minister to initiate a feasibility study and it is clear that he has ruled out such a plan for the foreseeable future

Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy (right) was asked by the Prime Minister to initiate a feasibility study and it is clear that he has ruled out such a plan for the foreseeable future

The assessment concluded that the entire route could cost £335bn for a bridge crossing and £209bn for a tunnel crossing - many times higher than figures previously suggested

The assessment concluded that the entire route could cost £335bn for a bridge crossing and £209bn for a tunnel crossing – many times higher than figures previously suggested

The idea of ​​a bridge or tunnel was explored as part of a wider study, the Union Connectivity Review, which looked at how to improve transport links between the four British countries.

Sir Peter said he had come to the conclusion that ‘modern, twenty-first century civil engineering’ made a bridge or tunnel between Great Britain and Northern Ireland technically possible.

But he pointed out that at 41km, it would be the “longest span bridge to date,” and the 84km tunnel would also be the longest ever.

‘A tunnel would be the longest undersea tunnel ever built, given the limited gradients trains can travel on, the route they must take and the depth they must reach,’ wrote Sir Peter.

‘Moreover, on the basis of current technology and safety considerations, a tunnel crossing could only be constructed for use on the track.

‘The need for a railway on a bridge or tunnel would also require significant construction to connect it to the rail network at both ends, which involves some complexity as Irish gauge is different from Great Britain’s.’

When the crossing emerged as a prospect again in February, Tory chairman of the Northern Ireland Select Committee, Simon Hoare, denounced the idea.

Following comments that it took 30 years to build the Channel Tunnel, and the issue of weapons sunk in the Irish Sea after the war, he tweeted: ‘The trains can be pulled by an inexhaustible herd of unicorns overseen by strict, official dodos.

“A PushmePull You could be the senior guard and Puff the Magic Dragon the inspector.

“Let’s focus on making the Protocol work and getting rid of the hallucinogens.”

He added: ‘Also another ”minor hurdle” is that NI’s gauge is an ”all Ireland” different from that used in GB. I’m not Brunel, but I think this could be a bit of a problem.’

Nicola Sturgeon rejected the idea and urged the chancellor to send funding to decentralized governments to help solve domestic problems.

In March last year, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘If you have £20bn available to build a bridge I’m pretty sure I and I’m sure the Northern Ireland Prime Minister could find things to do too. to spend that money. right now that would actually be very helpful in accelerating progress towards net zero.”

Last night, the prime minister said he plans to accept a recommendation to set up UKNET, a new body with representatives from the four countries that will identify and map out how to strengthen cross-border connections.

Henri Murison of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership commented: ‘Now that the Boris Bridge to Northern Ireland is back in the cereal box, it is time to focus on infrastructure projects that have a strong economic foundation, such as a new line across the pennies. the road from Manchester to Leeds via Bradford.’

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