Treasury ‘kills off’ PM’s £15billion dream of tunnel between Scotland and NI     


Treasury ‘kills off’ Boris Johnson’s £15billion dream of building ‘world’s stupidest tunnel’ between Scotland and Northern Ireland

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Boris Johnson’s £15billion dream of building the ‘world’s most stupid tunnel’ between Scotland and Northern Ireland looks to have been killed of by the Treasury.

Government officials have admitted the ambitious project – ridiculed by Tory MPs and many experts – is ‘dead, at least for now’ after fraught negotiations with Rishi Sunak ahead of the Budget next month.

The Chancellor has warned that he wants to ‘put the public finances on a sustainable path in the medium term’ after coronavirus wreaked havoc.

Former No10 chief Dominic Cummings seized on the briefing to the Financial Times, swiping that Mr Johnson would insist on feasibility studies continuing so Mr Johnson can ‘pretend it will happen’.   

The premier’s bold hopes for the link to strengthen the union were previously derided with claims it could cost as much as £33billion and require clearing out a huge munitions dump.

Other estimates put the cost closer to £15 billion, which would still account for a major chunk of spending as the UK comes out of the other side of the pandemic.

Boris Johnson's £15billion dream of building the 'world's most stupid tunnel' between Scotland and Northern Ireland looks to have been killed of by the Treasury

Boris Johnson’s £15billion dream of building the ‘world’s most stupid tunnel’ between Scotland and Northern Ireland looks to have been killed of by the Treasury

Options mooted for the crossing include a 25-mile tunnel connecting Stranraer, Scotland, and Larne, Northern Ireland

Options mooted for the crossing include a 25-mile tunnel connecting Stranraer, Scotland, and Larne, Northern Ireland

Former No10 chief Dominic Cummings seized on briefing to the Financial Times, swiping that Mr Johnson would insist on feasibility studies continuing so Mr Johnson can 'pretend it will happen'

Former No10 chief Dominic Cummings seized on briefing to the Financial Times, swiping that Mr Johnson would insist on feasibility studies continuing so Mr Johnson can ‘pretend it will happen’

The UK Government appeared serious about the link, commissioning a union connectivity review which would, in part, assess its feasibility and cost.

Various options for tunnels and bridges have been mooted. A link running from Stranraer in Scotland to Larne would be a similar length to the Channel tunnel. 

A spokeswoman for the UK Government did not deny that the plans had been shelved, but said: ‘Boosting connectivity across the UK and improving transport infrastructure are at the heart of our levelling up agenda.

‘That is why we asked Sir Peter Hendy to lead a Union Connectivity Review to look at future transport priorities, based on the wider strategic case for investment and the benefit it will bring to people and businesses across the UK.

‘On the back of his interim report in March, we have committed £20m to develop plans that can assess options on road and rail schemes.

‘We’re now looking forward to his final recommendations ahead of the spending review, where we will consider and confirm funding plans for delivering improved connectivity between all parts of the UK.’

When the crossing emerged as a prospect again in February the Tory chair of the Northern Ireland Select Committee, Simon Hoare lampooned the idea. 

Echoing comments that the Channel Tunnel took 30 years to get built, and the issue of weapons that were sunk in the Irish Sea after the war, he tweeted:  ‘The trains could be pulled by an inexhaustible herd of Unicorns overseen by stern, officious dodos. 

‘A PushmePullYou could be the senior guard and Puff the Magic Dragon the inspector. 

‘Let’s concentrate on making the Protocol work and put the hallucinogenics down.’ 

He added: ‘Also another ”minor hurdle” is the NI railway gauge is an ”all Ireland” gauge which is different to that used in GB. I’m not Brunel but I think this might be a bit of a problem.’ 

Nicola Sturgeon has dismissed the idea, urging the Chancellor to send the funding to the devolved administrations to help deal with domestic issues.

In March last year, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘If you’ve got £20billion available to build a bridge, I’m pretty sure me and I’m sure equally the First Minister of Northern Ireland would be able to find things to spend that on right now that actually would be really useful to accelerate the progress to net-zero.’

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has previously said his preference would be for a tunnel as opposed to a bridge, telling journalists last year: ‘I think the best solution if we’re going to bridge Scotland with Northern Ireland is a tunnel, and I’ve had conversations along those lines with the Prime Minister.’ 

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