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‘Boris’s burrow’: Tunnel linking Scotland and N Ireland backed by Scottish secretary Alister Jack

Written by on 14 February 2021

Move over Boris Bridge, if you want to get from Scotland to Northern Ireland and back, burrowing is the way to go.

A 25-mile undersea tunnel is the best way to bridge the gap between the regions, according to the secretary of state for Scotland.

Alister Jack threw his support behind the link ahead of the expected release of a study that could kick off a formal consultation on the idea – predictably dubbed “Boris’s burrow”.

The prime minister first backed the idea of connecting Larne in Northern Ireland to Stranraer in Scotland when he was foreign secretary in 2018.

But his idea of a bridge appears to have fallen out of favour as too complex and expensive, with a tunnel now seen as the preferred option.

The hole would be about 25 miles long, not far off the Channel Tunnel’s 31 miles, and provide a road and rail link.

A report on UK transport infrastructure by the head of Network Rail, Sir Peter Hendy, is reportedly imminent and expected to say the project is possible, according to the Telegraph on Sunday.

That could kick off a formal government feasibility study.

But the idea has already fallen foul of at least one Tory MP, step forward Simon Haore MP, chair of the Commons Northern Ireland affairs select committee.

“The trains could be pulled by an inexhaustible herd of Unicorns overseen by stern, officious dodos,” he tweeted.

“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.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, returning to Downing Street, London, after attending the government's weekly Cabinet meeting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Image: AlisterJack (left) said he strongly believes the PM favours the idea of a tunnel

Undeterred, Scotland Secretary Alister Jack said he had talked to the prime minister and that a tunnel appeared the most viable way forward.

He told the Daily Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast: “You say bridge. I say tunnel. I think a bridge would be closed for probably 100 days a year with the weather in the Irish Sea.”

Mr Jack is MP for Dumfries and Galloway, which includes Stranraer, the mooted location for one end of the tunnel.

He added: “My strong inclination would be that he [Mr Johnson] thinks it should be a tunnel because he and I have had conversations about the weather patterns in the Irish Sea and Beaufort’s Dyke, and there’s a munitions deposit there.”

Any project would also have to avoid the dyke, a 30-mile trench up to 300m deep.

The proposed tunnel would be about six mile shorter than the Channel Tunnel Image: The proposed tunnel would be about six miles shorter than the Channel Tunnel

It is Britain’s largest-known military dump, with the MoD offloading around a million tons of munitions there between the 1940s and 1970s.

The idea behind the project is to boost the regional and wider UK economy by making it quicker for people to travel and transport goods.

A similar project under way in Europe is an 11-mile tunnel under the Baltic Sea connecting Germany with Denmark.

Scheduled to complete in 2029, it will provide a major link between central Europe and Scandinavia.

The world’s longest tunnel with an undersea segment is Japan’s Seikan Tunnel, at more than 33 miles long with 14.5 miles under the seabed.

However, the Channel Tunnel has the longest section underwater – 23.5 miles.

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