'There are massive risks': One of the world's top engineers explains why Boris Johnson's planned bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland could be a disaster waiting to happen
- Boris Johnson's planned bridge across the Irish Sea risks catastrophic collisions and could dislodge the estimated million tonnes of unexploded munitions lying on the seabed, one of the world's top engineers told Business Insider.
- The planned bridge would cross over the largest munitions dump in the world.
- Ian Firth, an-award winning engineer who has designed and managed bridge projects around the world for almost 40 years, said Johnson's plan carried "massive, massive risks."
- Downing Street sources told Business Insider that Johnson is determined to push ahead with the project.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Boris Johnson's plan to build a bridge across the Irish Sea from Scotland to Northern Ireland would risk collisions with ships and threaten to dislodge the largest munitions dump on the planet, one of the world's leading bridge engineers has told Business Insider.Johnson is keen to push ahead with the bridge despite significant doubts being expressed about its feasibility both inside and outside the UK government.
However, Ian Firth, who helped design and lead a series of major bridge projects around the world for almost four decades, told Business Insider that Johnson's bridge would create "massive, massive risks" both during and after its construction.The bridge, which reports say would connect Larne in Northern Ireland to Portpatrick in Scotland, would have to cross around 20 miles of busy shipping lanes.
The risk of collisions with large ships would require the bridge to be built with very large supports which would be able to "resist possible impact from big ships and tankers travelling at a decent speed in that sort of location," Firth said.He said that any collision with shipping at that location "could do an awful sort of damage." "There are massive, massive risks involved with all of that."
Firth is a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers who has led projects worldwide, including the West Gate Bridge in Australia and Erksine Bridge in Scotland.
The bridge would cross a million tonnes of unexploded munitions
"The seabed is full of armaments and lots of unexploded munitions down there from World War Two when it was all dumped there," he explains.
One proposal, which is reportedly being considered by Johnson, would be to model the crossing on the Oresund Bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark, which is partly a bridge and partly a tunnel.Firth said the suggestion was "interesting" but warned that a tunnel is a tricky design which could demand major work on the land either side of the crossing.
"The gradient of the road or railway can only be so much. A railway has to be very shallow. You cannot have trains going up steep hills - that's just a fundamental thing."You'd need long approach roads on land to accommodate that. This adds to the cost and has huge environmental implications."
'Make up a [cost], then double it, triple it'
Firth questioned whether such spending could be justified to the public on this particular crossing.
"It does feel slightly odd to me if we are to spend I don't know - make up a number, double it, triple it - on building something like this," he told Business Insider."'[But] ultimately it's down to money. How much money does the Treasury want to spend on a crossing between Scotland which wants to be independent and a Northern Ireland which may as well be because of Brexit?"
If Johnson is determined to build the bridge, it may still happen, Firth said.
"I'm not saying it's impossible," he adds."If you've got enough money, you can do just about anything."
"They would involve environmental studies, traffic studies, socioeconomic studies, and a whole range of different things before you get anywhere near the technical studies on how we actually build the thing," he said."You'd need a minimum of two years to do a meaningful study - it's probably more like five."
- Compound Interest Waiver Scheme applies to everyone but provides limited relief — Here’s everything you need to know
- Best budget truly wireless earbuds in India
- India is the most attractive emerging market for clean energy investment, says Prime Minister Modi
- Tata Motors may report loss for yet another quarter led by weak JLR sales, commercial vehicles’ pain
- Supreme Court jumps in for Amazon and Flipkart after Karnataka High Court remains mum on investigation against their anti-competitive practices for over 200 days