Boris Johnson’s tunnel from Wales to Ireland won’t happen after all, UK Government sources confirm
A tunnel from Wales to Ireland won’t happen after all, the UK Government officials have confirmed.
Ministers had said in June that “high level discussions” were taking place about an underwater tunnel between Holyhead and the Republic of Ireland capital Dublin.
The plan would be presented to Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a “comparator” to the separate idea of a tunnel or bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland, with only one of the two going ahead.
However, it has now been confirmed that the idea of linking the two islands has been junked, the victims of a crackdown by the Treasury as the UK Government tightens its belt post-Covid.
According to the Financial Times, plans for the tunnel – which could have run from Scotland or Wales to Ireland – have been described as “dead” by government officials briefed on spending negotiations ahead of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget next month.
The spending review will “deliver a hammer blow” to Johnson’s plan to build the tunnel, the newspaper said, quoting one government official as saying: “It’s dead — at least for now”.
One official said the idea was “ahead of its time” and that current technology would require a “very long” rail tunnel.
Baroness Charlotte Vere, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Transport, had said that a route between Wales and Ireland was in the works as part of the Fixed Link Feasibility Study begun in March.
Baroness Vere said: “As with any assessment at this early stage, it is important to consider the broad range of options, so a route between Holyhead and Dublin is being assessed as a comparator.
“Since this route is not the main focus of the study, only high-level discussions around it have taken place. These have been facilitated by the independent technical team leading the study.”
The tunnel idea came to the fore after the chair of the Union Connectivity Review, a wide-ranging study of the economic potential of UK infrastructure, suggested that it may work better than a bridge.
An interim UCR report published in March this year said that the UK Government would “assess the feasibility, cost and timescales” of constructing a fixed link.
Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps then suggested the tunnel plan as an alternative to Boris Johnson’s proposed bridge to the Financial Times.
“Why not?” he asked, saying they needed to better connect Britain with Northern Ireland.
Another Boris Johnson idea, suggested to the Times, was of a roundabout under the Isle of Man connecting the different nations of the UK. However, his plan had no Welsh entrance.
Other tunnels emanating from the giant roundabout would run towards Northern Ireland and Stranraer in Scotland.
A Whitehall official told the Times that “People think this is all a joke but it’s much more likely to get the go-ahead than people think”.
According to the newspaper, however, the tunnel scheme is regarded as “batshit” by several of Johnson’s senior aides.
“The idea was that these three tunnels would meet in a giant roundabout underneath the Isle of Man and the tunnel to Ireland would start there,” a source told the Times. “Everyone knows Boris wants to do this so people were asked to look at how.”