Brexit Bridge-around

Boris Johnson calls for feasibility study of bridge from Northern Ireland to Scotland

Britain's new Prime Minister Boris Johnson loves a good infrastructure project to focus on. (Courtesy Flickr/BackBoris2012 Campaign Team)

Britain’s new Prime Minister Boris Johnson has requested a feasibility report to determine if a bridge could be built between Northern Ireland and Scotland. Great Britain’s Channel 4 News reportedly caught wind of Johnson’s request to the Treasury and Department for Transport asking officials to look into building the link over the Irish Sea, an idea he first began seriously touting last year.

The idea was initially circulated in early 2018 by architect Alan Dunlop, a well-known Glasgow-based academic-practitioner, historian, and author, when Johnson was first talking about building a 22-mile-long bridge across the English Channel to France. That discussion with French president Emmanuel Macron began as a way to potentially relieve post-Brexit transportation problems. Dunlop studied the possible connection and unveiled an image to go along with his findings at an architecture conference in Scotland last September. 

A map showing the channel between Northern Ireland and Scotland

Map view showing where a potential Celtic Crossing could be built (Via Google Maps)

Based on his studies, Dunlop believes it’s definitely possible to create a roadway and rail link from the island to Scotland, even though past attempts have never gone anywhere. Dunlop estimates such a project—nicknamed the Celtic Crossing—would cost about $13.2 billion if it spanned the North Irish Sea from the Mull of Kintyre in Campbeltown, Scotland to Torr Head in Northern Ireland, the closest points between the neighboring islands. 

Right now it takes almost nine hours to get from the northeastern tip in Northern Ireland to the southern tip of the U.K.’s Kintyre Peninsula by car and drivers have to take a ferry. The space between the sites is actually only 12 miles apart. Dunlop has also vocalized the notion that a bridge from Larne, Northern Ireland, to Portpatrick, Scotland, could be an even better location, though it would cost a few billion dollars more and be substantially longer at 21 miles. 

Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge in London was scrapped after years of controversy. (Courtesy Heatherwick Studio and Arup)

Johnson has long been known as a supporter of large-scale infrastructure upgrades around the U.K. As mayor of London, he was particularly excited about the now-abandoned scheme designed by Heatherwick Studio to build a Garden Bridge across the Thames river. The proposal quickly became defunct because it proved to be too expensive, and the city’s current Mayor Sadiq Khan cut the program after being elected following Johnson’s exit. 

A spokesperson told Channel 4 News that it’s no secret that the PM is interested in projects like these that “increase connectivity for people” and “strengthen the union.” At one point during his mayorship, Johnson wanted to build an estuary airport as well. 

Johnson’s call to conduct a feasibility study for a new Celtic Crossing includes finding out how much it might cost and what risks might be associated with building there—it’s been reported that World War 2 munitions still exist in the Irish Sea. As for Dunlop, he’s fully behind the idea, telling the News Letter that it’s time this project gets a deeper exploration by the U.K. government, but doesn’t want to get too involved with the politics of it all. 

“There are naysayers who, for whatever reason, don’t like Boris Johnson or they think it would cost too much money,” he admitted to the paper. “The comments are aimed at Boris Johnson and what is happening with Brexit. They don’t have anything to do with the possibility of connecting Scotland and Ireland… I’m trying my very best to stay clear of the politics and look at it from a straightforward architectural and engineering possibility.”

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