UK PM launches transport review to boost economy, strengthen ties

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street, in London, Britain, September 22, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched a review aimed at improving transport links across the UK, including a possible bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland, as part of a plan to boost the pandemic-hit economy and strengthen ties between its member nations.

The study will consider air links within the country, road and rail links in Scotland, the Welsh rail network, as well as the cost and practicality of building a “fixed link” with Northern Ireland, said a government statement on Saturday.

Johnson has in the past spoken of his desire for a 20-mile (32 km) plus bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Coronavirus lockdowns meant Britain’s economic output collapsed 20% in the second quarter, and the country faces rising unemployment as its furlough scheme comes to an end, and Brexit.

At the same time, support for Scottish independence has grown due to perceptions that Johnson responded too slowly to the pandemic and Scots’ anger over the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. Scottish voters opposed leaving the EU in a 2016 referendum.

Johnson hopes that transport improvements resulting from the review will help create jobs and bring the UK’s member nations closer together.

“Today’s announcement follows a recent pledge by the UK Government to bring forward funding to accelerate infrastructure projects in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland,” added the statement.

The review will be conducted by Peter Hendy, chair of state-owned rail track owner Network Rail, and report its findings in summer 2021.

Reporting by Sarah Young, editing by Louise Heavens