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Boris Johnson to finance study into Northern Ireland to Scotland bridge

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How the bridge stretching between Northern Ireland and Scotland could look

How the bridge stretching between Northern Ireland and Scotland could look

How the bridge stretching between Northern Ireland and Scotland could look

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to announce funding for a study to explore the viability of a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The Daily Record has reported that Mr Johnson will announce the plan as part of his visit to Scotland on Thursday.

When contacted by the Belfast Telegraph Downing Street said they would not be commenting on the speculation.

It's understood the bridge study is part of the PM's £5bn "build, build, build" strategy to help the UK recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The bridge, between Portpatrick and Larne, would span 28 miles and cost in the region of £20bn to build, with Mr Johnson previously estimating the cost at around £15bn.

It was revealed last month that no money had been spent looking into the idea, despite the PM speaking publicly in favour of it several times.

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Boris Johnson has repeatedly spoken about the prospect of a bridge linking Scotland and Northern Ireland (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Boris Johnson has repeatedly spoken about the prospect of a bridge linking Scotland and Northern Ireland (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Boris Johnson has repeatedly spoken about the prospect of a bridge linking Scotland and Northern Ireland (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Asked in March why no funding had been announced for the plan in Chancellor Rishi Sunak's budget, Mr Johnson's Scottish Secretary Alister Jack responded "watch this space".

Mr Jack has also suggested that a tunnel may be a more viable option than a bridge.

The idea has been backed by the DUP, with First Minister Arlene Foster described the suggestion as “positive” and MP Sammy Wilson saying that Mr Johnson could "win back the trust" of unionists by building a link between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

However SDLP Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said the money would be better off spent tackling existing issues within Northern Ireland, a view echoed by UUP leader Steve Aiken.

The Scottish Government has also expressed skepticism at the plans.

Then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, speaking last October, said Mr Johnson was "genuinely interested" in building the bridge.

“I know people dismiss it, but I don’t. It needs to be looked at. It needs to be at least examined," he said.

Critics have hit out at the cost of the bridge and spoken of the risks of World War Two munitions still in the Irish Sea.

Economic experts at the Fraser of Allander Institute said a new crossing would neither boost the economy nor improve connectivity.

“In short, it won’t deliver the economic boost some claim, it isn’t a priority, it would go to the wrong location, it wouldn’t be consistent with climate change objectives and the money could be better spent on other things," their assessment read.

“Apart from that, it’s a cracking idea.”

Belfast Telegraph