The Prime Minister wanted a bridge across or tunnel under the Irish Sea – but instead a Scottish A-road will be improved
Image: WPA Pool)
Boris Johnson’s dream of a bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland is tonight officially torpedoed – with a recommendation of simply improving the road to a Scottish ferry port instead.
The Prime Minister, who has a history of promoting eye-catching infrastructure projects which never happen, wanted to create a “Brexit” link over the treacherous Irish Sea.
In March, he commissioned Network Rail’s chairman Sir Peter Hendy to look at a 31-mile fixed link, believing it would strengthen ties between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
But the Department for Transport said that Sir Peter’s Union Connectivity Review., published on Friday, recommends that “for improved connectivity with Northern Ireland, upgrading the key A75 link to improve freight and passenger connectivity”.
The A75 goes to Stranraer and its ferry ports. The report drives the final nail into the coffin of the PM’s hopes of a crossing to Northern Ireland, as previously reported.
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.
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Mr Johnson said tonight: “If we want to truly level up the country then it’s vital that we improve connectivity between all corners of the UK, making it easier for more people to get to more places, more quickly.
“Sir Peter Hendy’s review is an inspiring vision for the future of transport which we will now consider carefully.
“Determined to get to work right away, we will set up a strategic UK-wide transport network that can better serve the whole country with stronger sea, rail and road links – not only bringing us closer together, but boosting jobs, prosperity and opportunity.”
The PM plans to accept a recommendation to create “UKNET” – a “strategic transport network spanning the entire United Kingdom”.
The review also recommends cutting rail journey times and increasing capacity on the West Coast Main Line, and “conducting an assessment of the East Coast road and rail corridor” – a week after the Government scrapped the HS2 eastern leg to Yorkshire.
It also suggests improvements on the A55, M53 and M56 to boost connections for North Wales, and bolstering the South Wales Corridor.
Sir Peter said: “My recommendations provide comprehensive, achievable and clear plans forward to better connect the whole of the United Kingdom, leading to more growth, jobs, housing and social cohesion.
“I welcome the enthusiasm shown by the Prime Minister and the Government to my final report and I look forward to their formal response to my recommendations, which aim to spread opportunity and prosperity right across the United Kingdom.”