Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urged to forget the feasibility of building multi-billion pound links to Scotland and instead spend the money on projects with a better chance of seeing light at the end of the tunnel.
Yesterday another idea was floated in the ongoing discussion of building a fixed link between Scotland and here.
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said it would be better for the Prime Minister to focus his efforts less on “Tory glamour projects”.
“With Brexit and Covid, the challenges facing communities right across these islands are real,” said the North Belfast MLA.
“Investment is needed to protect businesses, workers, improve our roads, rail and connectivity and to build a better future as we look to recovery.
“It’s time the Prime Minister woke up to that reality, people here simply don’t want a Boris bridge, a Boris burrow — frankly a Boris anything. They want jobs, opportunities, stability and a brighter future.”
It emerged a leading transport group was proposing a tunnel, with the Sunday Telegraph suggesting a feasibility study could get the green light as early as March. However, The Sunday Times reported it was just one proposal submitted as part of a wide-ranging review into connectivity of the four nations of the UK.
The Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee Simon Hoare was scathing suggesting a train in any undersea tunnel could be pulled by an “inexhaustible herd of unicorns overseen by stern, officious dodos”.
The tunnel — which could be shorter than the link to France under the English Channel — could possibly be dubbed the ‘Boris burrow’.
Any new connection could also appease unionists who have expressed displeasure at the way the Government has allowed the European Union to impose new checks on ferry cargo heading to Northern Ireland, it was suggested.
However some have said checks on goods would remain.
Th study by the chairman of Network Rail Sir Peter Hendy will say whether a link between Stranraer in Scotland and Larne in Northern Ireland is workable.
Sir Peter has met with the Prime Minister to discuss the findings, which could recommend the Government commissions a feasibility study of the project, with his interim report set to be published within a matter of weeks.
Scottish Secretary Allister Jack threw his support behind the idea.
However, Conservative MP Mr Hoare blasted it, saying “Puff the Magic Dragon” could be the inspector.
“Let’s concentrate on making the [Northern Ireland] protocol work and put the hallucinogenics down,” he tweeted.
Mr Hoare added: “Also another ‘minor hurdle’ is the NI railway gauge is an ‘all-Ireland’ gauge which is different to that used in GB. I’m not Brunel but I think this might be a bit of a problem.”
Aodhan Connolly of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium pointed out how it took 30 years for the channel tunnel to be built and it would not do away with EU checks.
Ulster Unionist Party leader Steve Aiken added: “Can we just have 10% of the multi-billions that it [the tunnel] would cost to fix our infrastructure — oh, and maybe some zero emission ferries (built here) — now that would make more sense (also get rid of the Irish Sea border).”
DUP MP Sammy Wilson said it was more important to “make sure we are economically and constitutionally connected” than physically.