Boris Johnson's leadership abilities questioned by Belinda De Lucy
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Sir Peter Hendy, the Network Rail chairman, was tasked by the Prime Minister in June 2020 with conducting a wider “Union connectivity review” to assess improvements to transport links between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Last September Mr Johnson asked civil servants to consider the building of a 21-mile bridge between Northern Ireland and the British mainland at an estimated cost of £20bn.
A possible bridge or tunnel between Portpatrick in Scotland and Larne in Northern Ireland was included in the overall review but is set to be officially scrapped in the coming weeks as the study will be made publicly available.
A Government source told The Telegraph: “Hendy has examined if this is affordable and practical and he concludes 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.”
Natural difficulties would make the project impossible as water in the North Channel of the Irish Sea is too deep.
The water runs more than 1,000 ft deep in places, meaning that some of the largest support towers ever constructed would have been necessary.
Risks of explosions in the seabed were also put into consideration as the area was used as an offshore ammunition dump in the Second World War.
Strong gales in the region would have also closed a bridge crossing for up to 100 days a year for safety reasons.
Back in 2020, Sir Peter said in a statement: “If you look at the distance between Northern Ireland and Scotland it is actually no further than the Channel Tunnel.
“I said to Boris, I am not going to get any further than finding out whether it is feasible, how long it will take and how much it might cost.”
Following the study that revealed a bridge, tunnel or underwater rail link would not be feasible, Sir Peter’s recommendations for boosting connections across the Union are now expected to focus instead on road and rail links to Wales and to Scotland.
In September 2021, the Prime Minister told reporters during his US trip that proposals for the connection remained “an ambition” but were “not the most immediate”.
He also said it would only happen after the completion of the HS2 rail link which was recently scaled back.
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Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s former senior Number 10 adviser, called the plan “the world’s most stupid tunnel to Ireland”.
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Cummings said about the Prime Minister: “He doesn’t have a plan, he doesn’t know how to be Prime Minister and we only got him in there because we had to solve a certain problem not because he was the right person to be running the country.”
“You know the Prime Minister’s only agenda is buy more trains, buy more buses, have more bikes and build the world’s most stupid tunnel to Ireland – that’s it.”
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