Northern Ireland news

Boris Johnson's tunnel plan turns to 'nuts' vision of 'roundabout' under Isle of Man

A Sunday Times graphic of the Isle of Man roundabout
Paul Ainsworth

The suggested tunneling under the Irish Sea between the north and Scotland being considered by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson could involve three separate tunnel routes, it has been revealed.

The Sunday Times has reported that Downing Street officials have proposed a system that would involve three tunnels from Great Britain meeting under a "giant roundabout" under the Isle of Man, from which one tunnel would continue to Ireland. It is understood the three proposed outbound routes from GB would begin at Stranraer, Heysham, and just outside Liverpool.

However, sources told the newspaper that the PM's officials working on the proposal believe it to be impractical, and a "Fuhrer bunker project".

A formal proposal for a single tunnel system has already been submitted by the High-Speed Rail Group to the chairman of the UK's Network Rail, Sir Peter Hendry. It is thought Sir Hendry could order a feasibility study into the plan within weeks.

However, the plan has been met with scepticism on both sides of the Irish Sea, with Stormont infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon stating last week: "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."

Justice Minister Naoimi Long has also dismissed the proposed tunnel as a "giant unionist umbilical chord".

Tory MP for North Dorset, Simon Hoare has also criticised the tunnel proposal. In a tweet earlier this month, he ridiculed the idea, and urged the UK government to instead focus on the NI Protocol instead.

"Let’s concentrate on making the Protocol work and put the hallucinogenics down," he wrote.

Among criticism of the initial proposal is how the tunnel could be built through Beaufort's Dyke - a 32-mile fissure estimated to contain 1.5 million tonnes of munitions dumped following the Second World War. It lies across the proposed route between Larne in NI and Stranraer in Scotland.

The latest proposal being considered in Downing Street would see the main tunnel from Ireland built south of the dyke.

The Sunday Times reported, however, that the plan involving a roundabout under the Isle of Man was intended to "highlight how nuts this thing is", according the Downing Street source, who added that the entire tunnel plan "exists primarily in the mind of the PM."

However, another Whitehall source told the newspaper: "People think this is all a joke but it's much more likely to get the go-ahead than people think."

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