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Mon, 30 March 2020

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EXCL Former infrastructure tsar Lord Adonis slams Boris Johnson over 'fantasy' bridge to France plan

EXCL Former infrastructure tsar Lord Adonis slams Boris Johnson over 'fantasy' bridge to France plan

Emilio Casalicchio

4 min read

Ex-government infrastructure guru Lord Adonis has slammed the “fantasy” proposal by Boris Johnson to build a massive bridge linking Britain and France.


The peer said the Foreign Secretary and Brexit campaign bigwig was “playing silly games” while “burning our existing political and diplomatic bridges to the ground”.

The arch Remain campaigner launched the extraordinary attack after Mr Johnson said it was “ridiculous” the two nations were linked only by rail through the Channel Tunnel.

According to reports, he suggested a new 20-mile bridge to counterparts during an Anglo-French summit yesterday. French president Emmanuel Macron is said to have replied: “I agree. Let’s do it.”

But Lord Adonis - who quit as chair of the Government’s infrastructure commission last month over Brexit - launched a furious response at the suggestion.

“Boris is proposing this latest fantasy just as he sets about destroying our most important bridge to Europe - the European Union,” he told PoliticsHome.

“We already have the means to move people and freight - in cars and in lorries - via the train shuttle service on the Channel Tunnel.

“There is spare capacity on that existing infrastructure. We now need to focus on improving the flow of people and trade through the tunnel we already have - that is made considerably more difficult and less likely by Brexit.”

He added: “Boris struggles to keep his political promises rooted in reality - as highlighted by his '£350m for the NHS' sloganeering.

“Now is not the time for playing silly games and fantasy politics whilst burning our existing political and diplomatic bridges to the ground.”

'NO PLANS' FOR BRIDGE

Downing Street meanwhile dismissed the suggestion by the Foreign Secretary by saying there was no plan to build a Channel-spanning structure.

"I haven't seen any plans on that, but we are going to have very close ties with France economically, culturally and in areas such as defence and security for many, many decades to come," a spokesman for Theresa May said.

"What was agreed yesterday, and what the Foreign Secretary tweeted about, is a panel of experts who will look at major projects together, including infrastructure."

The spokesman added: "We want to work very closely with our French colleagues on building a shared, prosperous future."

BRIDGE 'MAKES NO SENSE'

Meanwhile, the Road Haulage Association said a cross-Channel bridge “makes no sense” since the costs and practical implications would be huge.

Chief executive Richard Burnett said: “The Strait of Dover is the world’s busiest shipping lane carrying more than 500 ships daily, so construction would cause huge disruption to sea traffic.”

He added: “The Channel Tunnel and the ferry routes are working well within capacity, so it makes no sense to commit huge amounts of taxpayers’ money in an uncertain economic climate to a costly bridge project that we don’t need.”

And Tory MP for Dover Charlie Elphicke issued a veiled swipe at Mr Johnson by suggesting there were other infrastructure ills that needed attention first.

CHANNEL TUNNEL 'A FIRST STEP'

According to the Daily Telegraph, the Foreign Secretary originally thought a road tunnel running alongside the Channel Tunnel rail line could be a good idea - but he has since switched to the bridge plan.

The paper says he told aides: “We are two of the world’s greatest economies linked by a single railway. It’s ridiculous.

“Technology is moving on all the time and there are much longer bridges elsewhere, including one that is 34 miles long in Japan.”

After the summit with French counterparts he tweeted: “I’m especially pleased we are establishing a panel of experts to look at major projects together.

“Our economic success depends on good infrastructure and good connections. Should the Channel Tunnel be just a first step?”

It is not the first time that Mr Johnson has floated the idea of a groundbreaking infrastructure project.

While he was London mayor, he suggested building a new airport in the Thames Estuary, but it was ruled out as impractical by experts.

And once he left City Hall his successor Sadiq Khan pulled the plug on his plans to build a 'garden bridge' across the Thames. 

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