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Monday, November 29, 2021

Johnson on a bridge to nowhere

What is it about Boris Johnson and bridges? More to the point, what does the Prime Minister find so fascinating about massively expensive, huge public sector projects like bridges and airports?

His proposal to put a new London Airport on an island in the Thames estuary didn't take off, so he switched to a more exclusive project, the abortive London Garden Bridge

The idea was to build a bridge covered with trees and flowers over the River Thames in central London. A total of £53m of public money was spent on this pipedream, before it was officially abandoned in August 2107, after a review recommended it be scrapped.

And then there was the even more bonkers proposal to build a bridge or tunnel to Northern Ireland. A project conceived no doubt during a brain-storming session on how to strengthen the union, while giving the finger to the European Union.

The Independent reports that this bridge has also been jettisoned at the drawing board stage, after a government review found that it would cost an estimated £335bn, while a tunnel would be about £209bn.

A significant obstacle to this plan was highlighted by the Guardian back in February 2020, when they reported on warnings by bomb-disposal experts that it would be too dangerous to build the bridge because the most direct route for the 28-mile span would involve crossing Beaufort’s Dyke, a trench that contains more than one million tonnes of unexploded munitions, plus chemical weapons and radioactive waste.

Beaufort’s Dyke is about 31 miles (50km) long and up to 300 metres (1,000ft) deep, and lies directly on the most direct route for a link between Portpatrick in Scotland and Larne in Northern Ireland. The paper said that the dump site is not regularly monitored by the British government, although the construction of a British Gas pipeline two decades ago resulted in thousands of second world war incendiary bombs being washed ashore, some of which exploded when they dried out.

They added that a four-year-old boy suffered burns in Campbeltown, Argyll and Bute, after picking up a device containing phosphorus. The episode led to the last major survey of the maritime site, with dredging for the gas pipeline thought to have been the cause.

A million tonnes of explosive and a £335 billion cost seem to be pretty decisive reason to abandon this idea.

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