Boris Johnson has revived plans to build a £20 billion bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland – with engineers looking to copy the link between Sweden and Denmark which featured in a hit ‘Scandi noir’ crime drama.
The Prime Minister, who is keen to sanction a series of grand infrastructure projects as a legacy of his rule, is about to receive the results of a feasibility study into the construction of a combined bridge and tunnel connection at the narrowest, 20-mile gap between Northern Ireland and the British mainland.
One version of the plan would be modelled on the Oresund Bridge, which runs for five miles from the Swedish coast near Malmo to an artificial island in the middle of the Oresund Strait.
Boris Johnson has revived plans to build a £20 billion bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland – with engineers looking to copy the link between Sweden and Denmark which featured in a hit ‘Scandi noir’ crime drama
It then turns into a 2.5-mile tunnel to the Danish island of Amager, near Copenhagen.
The Oresund crossing was the setting for The Bridge, a popular BBC series starring Sofia Helin and Killing Eve actor Kim Bodnia as detectives investigating a gruesome murder.
Mr Johnson has refused to be dissuaded against the project by warnings about spiralling costs for a project that might be seen to take inspiration from the feats of the great Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The bridge would be most likely to run between Portpatrick in Scotland and Larne in County Antrim, and engineers are understood to have come up with the idea of a bridge-tunnel split as a way of dealing with Beaufort’s Dyke, the UK’s largest offshore dump site for conventional and chemical munitions after the Second World War.
It lies seven miles off Portpatrick and the Ministry of Defence estimates there are a million tons of munitions at the bottom of the deep trench, including 14,500 tons of 5in artillery rockets filled with phosgene gas, in addition to two tons of concrete-encased metal drums filled with radioactive waste which was dumped there during the 1950s.
Under one version of Mr Johnson’s plan, the bridge would run from the Scottish coast over the trench, before becoming a tunnel for the final stretch to Northern Ireland.
The Oresund crossing was the setting for The Bridge, a popular BBC series starring Sofia Helin and Killing Eve actor Kim Bodnia as detectives investigating a gruesome murder
Local geography might dictate that two artificial islands would be needed to span the North Channel.
Although Mr Johnson’s critics have described the idea as ‘pie in the sky’ and a waste of public money, the Prime Minister believes that it would ease the strain on air routes between the mainland and Northern Ireland and would help to cement the Union.
At 20 miles, it would still be dwarfed by the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge-tunnel system, which traverses 30 miles of water.
The structure spanning the greatest expanse of open sea is the 22.4-mile Hangzhou Bay Bridge in China.
The world’s longest bridge of all, again in China, is the 102-mile Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge on the Beijing-Shanghai railway.
Mr Johnson is this week expected to give the go-ahead to the UK’s most high-profile infrastructure project, the HS2 rail link, and is under pressure to approve the expansion of Heathrow Airport, despite his long-stated opposition.
But he is also keen to kickstart smaller projects – further bridges, 500,000 new houses, the reversal of cuts to rail branch lines, and fleets of new electric ‘Boris buses’ in parts of the country currently poorly served by public transport.
The world’s longest bridge of all, again in China, is the 102-mile Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge on the Beijing-Shanghai railway
Plans for a link between Scotland and Northern Ireland go back to 1869, when the Irish engineer Luke Livingston Macassey said it would ‘tend to the consolidation of empire, so greatly desired by all lovers of order and prosperity’.
The Scottish government has expressed scepticism about the idea, citing ‘an obvious number of practical obstacles and challenges’ and the need for ‘a robust assessment of the costs or benefits of such a project’.
Work on the Oresund Bridge started in 1995 and was completed five years later. It now carries more than 60,000 travellers daily, with a four-lane road on the upper deck and two train tracks on the lower level.
A No 10 source said that Mr Johnson was keen to promote major infrastructure projects and to ‘advance the cause of cementing the Union’, but was waiting to see the feasibility assessment results.