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Boris Johnson told to leave bridges 'to the experts'

Boris Johnson

Bridge schemes should be supported by infrastructure experts rather than “attention-seeking” foreign secretary Boris Johnson, a leading bridge engineer has said.  

Johnson took to Twitter to show support for a bridge between the west coast of Scotland and Northern Ireland, building on his previous backing for London’s ill-fated Garden Bridge and a bridge between England and France across the English Channel.

Independent bridge consultant Simon Bourne said the foreign secretary’s previous infrastructure plans, such as the Garden Bridge and his “Boris Island” airport in London, “tend to be a little bit pie-in-the-sky”.

Johnson has previously backed the scandal-hit Garden Bridge scheme, which has been cancelled by London mayor Sadiq Khan with roughly £50M of public money wasted. Then in January he proposed a bridge connecting England and France across the English Channel.

Bourne said Johnson’s support for a fixed link between Scotland and Northern Ireland was a “publicity stunt” and he should “leave it to the real experts”.

“He’s got no substance behind it [his backing for the Scotland to Northern Ireland bridge]; I doubt he’s actually spoken to any bridge design friends. It’s just been pulled out of thin air and it’s an attention-seeking gesture,” said Bourne.

“It’s worth someone in government having a discussion about these things but he’s not the right person to be having the discussion, it needs a proper infrastructure panel to be thinking all these things through strategically over a number of years.”

The bridge, which Bourne estimates would cost around £20bn due to complications with building in deep water, would reach from the west coast of Scotland to Northern Ireland.

Bourne said a crossing between the two countries is not impossible, pointing to the cable-stayed Øresund bridge between Denmark and Sweden.

“In engineering terms it’s certainly within the realms of being achieved and within a reasonable timescale…I think at the end of the day it’s just money,” said Bourne.

“If you put something like this forward, you’ve got to tell people it will be £20bn, and you’ve got to give people some idea of how that will be funded.”

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Typical civil engineer. Put up an idea by a non-engineer, let's knock it down, rather than thinking about any economic benefits, etc. Maybe it's because 'I didn't think of it first'. Boris is a great showman and gets your thought process going!

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  • James - how about a bridge to the USA from the UK? Does that get your thought process going?

    Cripes, I hope he doesn't read this, it might be his next big idea. He's probably on the phone to Joanna Lumley right now...

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  • I think it is refreshing to get someone (previously) in a position of power and influence getting the public interested in major civil engineering projects. Whether or not they are viable/sensible/buildable, isn't it in the industry's interest to have people excited about civil engineering?

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