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'Boris's Burrow' tunnel to Northern Ireland ditched over £100bn price tag

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Plans to build a tunnel between Scotland and Northern Ireland have been ditched after experts warned that the project would cost around £100 billion.

Boris Johnson had previously backed the idea of a new link across the Irish Sea, seeing it as a way to boost the Union and trade, and it was considered as part of an ongoing UK-wide transport review.

Experts who were consulted about the possibility of a tunnel, which would have run between Stranraer and Belfast, found that it would have brought some benefits. However, they also warned the project would have come with an enormous price tag far in excess of the £15-20 billion previously estimated.

Doug Oakervee and Gordon Masterton, two of the UK's most respected civil engineers, found that only an underground rail link would be feasible, meaning the tunnel would have had to be far longer than if it was a road link, due to restrictions on inclines trains can travel at. 

The project was also complicated by the need to bypass Beaufort's Dyke, a deep underwater trench which contains large quantities of unexploded munitions from World War II, UK government sources told The Telegraph.

The report has led to an acceptance within Whitehall that the project will not be going ahead.

However, the report is believed to call for a link to be kept under review, in the hope that new technologies such as driverless, electric cars, which do not give off emissions, could one day make a project viable. 

The Prime Minister's plan was dubbed "the world's most stupid tunnel" by Dominic Cummings, his former chief advisor, who on Tuesday predicted that Mr Johnson would refuse to give up on a project he has taken a strong personal interest in.

A price tag of £100 billion would make the cost of a rail link under the Irish Sea roughly equivalent to the HS2 high speed rail link, which it has been estimated will cost £107 billion.

"It won't be 'farewell' to 'the world's stupidest tunnel'," Mr Cummings tweeted. "[Mr Johnson] will insist feasibility studies etc continue so he can at least pretend it will happen, while officials clutch heads at waste of time/£ & ensure nothing actually happens, given he doesn't/can't control Whitehall."

Project 'dead - at least for now'

The project was described as "dead - at least for now", by government officials who briefed The Financial Times, which reported that the tunnel scheme was an early victim of a Treasury crackdown on spending.

A UK government spokesperson said: "Boosting connectivity across the UK and improving transport infrastructure are at the heart of our levelling-up agenda.

"That is why we asked Sir Peter Hendy to lead a Union Connectivity Review to look at future transport priorities, based on the wider strategic case for investment and the benefit it will bring to people and businesses across the UK.

"On the back of his interim report in March, we have committed £20 million to develop plans that can assess options on road and rail schemes. 

"We're now looking forward to his final recommendations ahead of the Spending Review, where we will consider and confirm funding plans for delivering improved connectivity between all parts of the UK."

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