Few observers were surprised by Boris Johnson’s announcement that he’s considering plans to build a bridge between Northern Ireland and the UK mainland.
After all the PM is no stranger to headline grabbing, often unrealistic, and in some cases wasteful infrastructure projects.
Whilst London Mayor he was a vocal champion of a proposal to build an airport in the Thames Estuary – the so called “Boris Island Project” – which was abandoned after a series of reports criticised the plans as being too risky and too expensive.
During his time in City Hall Johnson was also a major supporter of the controversial “garden bridge”, an idea for a new pedestrian bridge across the Thames that was originally dreamed up by the actor Joanne Lumley. This project was abandoned in 2017 after a financial review, but not before it had cost £43m of public money.
In more recent times, whilst serving as Theresa May’s foreign secretary in 2018, Johnson floated the idea of a 22-mile bridge across the English channel, a suggestion which drew scorn from colleagues, engineers and the maritime industry.
The initial reaction to this latest proposal suggests it’s unlikely to be fourth time lucky for Johnson. Some have dismissed the suggestion as a classic Johnson distraction technique, or the latest in a long line of doomed vanity projects. Some have suggested that such a bridge would be completely unnecessary and that existing transport links are adequate. Others have focused on the technical and economic challenges of building 28 mile long bridge across an inhospitable stretch of water that is famously littered with munitions dumped after World War II.
Undaunted by the criticism so far, Johnson has vowed to press ahead with a feasibility study on the project. But given the spending priorities elsewhere, and the pressing issues facing other areas of our transportation network, should the government commit any resource to exploring this project?
In this week’s poll, we’re asking a simple question. Should the government explore the idea, or abandon it now? As always, we welcome your comments on this emotive topic below the line.