Boris Johnson’s much derided plans for a bridge or tunnel linking Scotland to Northern Ireland have been dumped from a long-awaited review of transport links within the UK.
Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy’s Union Connectivity report published today does not include the bridge, nor the tunnel alternative. Instead it recommends simply improving the road to the ferry port at Cairnryan.
The Prime Minister had initially wanted to build a bridge over the Irish Sea which would link Scotland with Northern Ireland. When experts said the plan would never work, he changed the focus to a tunnel instead.
The bridge/tunnel suggestions had been backed by Scottish Secretary Alister Jack despite experts’ ridicule
That hit problems when it was pointed out that a route beneath the Irish Sea could disturb an arms dump in the Beauford Dyke. There are also fears that the 1,000 feet deep channel between Portpatrick and Larne could contain unexploded Second World War bombs.
The bridge/tunnel suggestions had been backed by Scottish Secretary Alister Jack despite experts’ ridicule.
A government source said Peter Hendy had examined the costs of a fixed link to Northern Ireland and found “it would be technically very challenging at the moment”.
“That’s not to say it won’t become viable at some point in the future, but at the moment it would be very, very difficult and expensive,” the source told the Daily Telegraph.
One of the key suggestions which is in the report is a new linked transport system, a proposal which completely ignores devolution and takes key transport decisions out of the hands of the Scottish government.
Boris Johnson’s government is known to eye the Scottish parliament with disdain and wants to reduce its powers.
The new plan would create a UKNet, which would map out the strategic locations across the country and plot how best to link them together. It would also provide extra funding for some areas. The Prime Minister has now pledged to set up UKNet “right away”.
The Scottish government has not been consulted on the plans and were not consulted on the now abandoned bridge/tunnel project. A Scottish government spokesman said that “transport is devolved to Holyrood and the UK government should respect that”.
Scottish ministers have not been sighted on the recommendations of the Union Connectivity report
“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,” the spokesman said.
“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.”