A Boris Johnson ally has defended the PM’s barmy plan to build a 25-mile bridge to Northern Ireland – and bizarrely compared it to the M25.
The “vanity project” was raised yet again today as the Tory leader made a trip to Scottish islands in a bid to shore up the union over coronavirus.
Mr Johnson has repeatedly raised the idea of a bridge across the Irish Sea to boost connectivity and trade between Britain and Belfast.
Last month he declared: “We will carry out a study of all future road, rail, air and cross-sea links between our all our four parts of the UK.”
But the BBC reports that, as of June 5, there had still been no actual feasibility study commissioned on the idea.
Boris Johnson’s record is littered with failed projects – from the much smaller 366-metre Garden Bridge, scrapped by London mayor Sadiq Khan in 2017 after costs spiralled, to an island airport in the Thames Estuary that never came close to approval by the Airports Commission.
Yet officials at the Treasury and the Department for Transport were asked to look at risks and costs of the project.
And today Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, claimed a bridge “could be fantastic for connectivity.”
He compared it to the M25, London’s orbital motorway which is said to have cost £909m in the 1980s.
Rough estimates have put the cost of a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland at around £15bn.
Experts have also warned the sea channel between Portpatrick and Larne is almost 1,000ft deep and may contain unexploded WW2 bombs. Critics also warn a bridge could harm shipping across the Irish sea.
But Mr Lewis told Sky News: “The PM’s always been very clear about his enthusiasm for bridges… During coronavirus we saw the importance of connectivity for the whole of the UK.
“We put extra money in to support the ferries and the airlines being able to continue to keep the connectivity for Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK – vital for business and for there supply of goods.
“So more connectivity is good for the UK as a whole and it’s good for the economy and it can deliver jobs.
“I think it’s absolutely right that we do the work to look at the feasibility, the viability and how this can work.
“And it would be an exciting project. Big infrastructure projects throughout history have been sometimes controversial, difficult, but they’re the right thing to do.
“The M25 wasn’t a straightforward thing but no one could imagine life without it around London now.
“So I think it is the right thing to do and it could be fantastic for connectivity.”
The Scottish government has branded the idea a “vanity project” and the UK Chamber of Shipping also blasted the plan.
A spokesman said earlier this year: “There are already a range of ferry operators taking tourists and trade between Northern Ireland and Scotland.
“Spending £15bn-£20bn of taxpayers’ money on a bridge simply to replicate what those ferries already do is unnecessary. The money could be far better spent improving road and rail links to our ports across the UK.”