Boris Johnson's Scotland-Ireland bridge plan to be examined in UK government feasibility study

An official study will assess the feasibility of a bridge or tunnel between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

One model suggests a similar construction to the Oresund Bridge, the world's longest cable-stayed bridge connecting Copenhagen with Malmo, Denmark, Sweden Photo by Daniel Krehe/Shutterstock
One model suggests a similar construction to the Oresund Bridge, the world's longest cable-stayed bridge connecting Copenhagen with Malmo, Denmark, Sweden Photo by Daniel Krehe/Shutterstock

The research is being carried out as part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s major plan to boost UK transport links.

Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy, who is carrying out a review of union connectivity, said further work is required on the possibility of a “fixed link” across the Irish Sea.

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Following publication of his interim report, the Government announced that air passenger duty – a tax on passenger flights from UK airports – could be cut for domestic journeys.

Some £20 million has also been committed to develop plans for upgraded rail, road, sea and air links – and explore new requirements to offset emissions and decarbonise aviation.

Sir Peter has commissioned two engineering professors to lead a study into the feasibility of a bridge or tunnel between Northern Ireland and Scotland, outlining its cost, timescale and the work involved.

They are ex-HS2 and Crossrail chairman Douglas Oakervee and former vice-president of Jacobs Engineering Gordon Masterton.

Mr Johnson has repeatedly spoken about the prospect of a bridge, even though experts have warned that the depth of the Irish Sea and the presence of dumped munitions would cause problems.

The scheme could cost a reported £20 billion, although the Prime Minister has previously said it would “only cost about £15 billion”.

The distance from Larne to Portpatrick, one of the most likely routes for a bridge, is around 28 miles (45km).

There is no problem with distance, money or the Beaufort’s Dyke explosives disposal area, according to Mr Johnson.

In November 2018, he said: “The problem is not the undersea Beaufort’s Dyke or lack of funds. The problem is an absence of political will.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps rejected a claim by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that the money could be better spent elsewhere.

He told the BBC: “I understand that it is not the responsibility of the Scottish First Minister to connect the United Kingdom together. The Scottish First Minister doesn’t even believe we should be in a United Kingdom. So I understand her perspective but I think it is wrong.

“For example, if you live in Northern Ireland, you want to know that you can reliably get the hauliers and lorry drivers in with goods from the mainland of the British Isles.

“Why would you ever be against connecting different parts of our country in a better way? It shouldn’t be a controversial thought at all.

“As one small part of this Union connectivity review (we will) undertake a study of the feasibility of doing that and we will report back in the summer.”

Sir Peter’s interim report assessed ways transport can better connect all parts of the UK.

It set out how a UK Strategic Transport Network would deliver the ambition – upgrading direct transport links, reducing delays and stimulating growth across the four nations.

The Government’s £20 million will be spent on exploring the development of projects including improved rail connectivity between the north coast of Wales and England; upgrading the A75 between Gretna, Dumfries and Stranraer; faster rail links from England to Scotland; and rail improvements in south-east Wales.

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