BORIS Johnson’s plans for a bridge or tunnel from Northern Ireland to Scotland have been officially scrapped after a review to be released this week found the plans to be too difficult and costly.
The Irish News asked the Transport Department several months ago how much taxpayer money had been spent to assess the feasibility of a bridge or tunnel over the Irish Sea.
However, in a response under the Freedom of Information Act, the ministry said it could not reveal the cost until a review of the plans was released.
“The total cost of the Union Connectivity Review (UCR) Fixed Link Feasibility Study, which assesses the viability of constructing a fixed transport link between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, will be released once the UCR is fully concluded, ”the department said.
The Prime Minister asked Sir Peter Hendy, Chairman of Network Rail, to launch a study on how different parts of the UK could be better connected.
It is understood that the review, which is due for publication this week, has ruled out plans for a bridge or tunnel over the Irish Sea.
Government sources had suggested in September that the plans had indeed been canceled after Chancellor Rishi Sunak withdrew funding.
Mr Johnson first suggested a bridge that would link Stranraer to Larne three years ago – an idea which has been widely rejected by engineers.
The bridge was to cost around £ 20 billion.
The proposed tunnel, which is expected to cost around £ 15bn, has also been backed by Mr Johnson.
The project has been called “the dumbest tunnel in the world” by former Prime Minister Dominic Cummings and “fantastic” by SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.
A government source told The Telegraph: “Hendy has considered whether this is affordable and practical and he concludes that it would be technically very difficult at the moment.
“That’s not to say it won’t become viable at some point in the future, but right now it would be very, very difficult and expensive.”
It is understood that Hendy’s connectivity review initially rejected plans for a bridge in the North Channel.
The bridge would have needed some of the largest support towers ever built.
It was also reportedly frequently forced to close due to strong winds.
The review also examined the feasibility of a tunnel.
An underwater road tunnel was ruled out because it would take too long for emergency services to arrive in the event of an accident.
An undersea rail tunnel between Stranraer and Larne, submitted by the High Speed Rail Group, was examined in more detail.
However, the review found that since trains can only run on gentle slopes, any tunnel would have to start far inland at both ends to cope with heavy falls under the sea.
Sir Peter’s recommendations for strengthening connections across the UK should focus on road and rail links to Wales and Scotland.
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