Christopher Hope - another stenographer pretending to do journalism
There has been the usual obedient taking of dictation from alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and his pals, which means blaming the EU for Brexit, when Bozo and Co are the real culprits. And now has come a post-Christmas turkey of positively magnificent proportions, originating from Christopher “No” Hope of the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph. An Irish Sea tunnel!
This has made the front page of the Tel today, with the headline telling readers “‘Boris burrow’ tunnel to N Ireland set to get the green light”. We learn that “It would be the same length - 31.5 miles - as the tunnel under the Channel”. Yeah, right.
Now, one hates to rain on this particular parade too heavily, but this is total crap. It’s not going to happen. Not now, and most likely not ever. And should it ever be built, the cost would not be a mere £10 billion. It would be several times that amount. So let’s look at why this is less likely than seeing a flock of flying pigs whizz past your window any time soon.
One, the proposed route, from near Stranraer to near Larne, could not be used - not without a long detour around the northern end of Beaufort’s Dyke, a deep trench in the Irish Sea where more than a million tonnes of surplus munitions, including chemical weapons, has been dumped by the MoD. The Dyke has also been used to dump nuclear waste. So you can make that 31.5 miles more like 40 miles.
Two, the Channel Tunnel has a maximum depth of 380 feet. That gets it under the deepest water. A tunnel under the Irish Sea would need a maximum depth of at least 600 feet. The Channel Tunnel cost, at 2016 prices, £16 billion. Double that and add a bit more.
Another wizzo wheeze bites the dust, eh Bozo?
Three, unlike the Channel Tunnel, there is no motorway link anywhere near the mainland side of the proposed crossing. Road links to the Stranraer area are not good. Rail links are also not good, consisting of a single track line from Ayr. There was a line running directly from Dumfries to Stranraer, but that closed back in 1965.
Four, once rail traffic got through any tunnel, it would encounter a problem with the network in Ireland. Because main line railways on the island are laid to a wider track gauge than those on mainland Britain. Sure, the technology exists for variable gauge passenger trains - but would it be worth using, given the low demand? Also, the rail link to Stranraer, and railways throughout Northern Ireland, are not electrified. The tunnel would have to be. So add on the electrification bill - or add on time for traction changes. Plural.
Five, there is no demand for a tunnel - except in the increasingly fevered imaginations of some Tory politicians, and their stenographers in the press. Compare the volume of ferry traffic between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland, and that across the Channel before the Tunnel was opened. A fixed link would be a waste of scarce resources.
And Six, building a fixed link between mainland Britain and the island of Ireland will not have any effect on the Northern Ireland Protocol. Merely making it easier for goods to transit the Irish Sea crossing will not mean those goods escape customs checks.
Christopher Hope needs to try doing some actual journalism. This is one for the bin.
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