- British foreign secretary Boris Johnson wants to build a massive bridge from England to France.
- It’d be one of the biggest bridges in the world, and would be the second link between the two countries after the Channel tunnel.
- President Emmanuel Macron reportedly told Johnson said “let’s do it.”
- But there are significant logistical issues facing the idea.
Britain may be planning to leave the European Union in 2019, but Europe isn’t going anywhere.The island nation will still need to work closely with its mainland neighbours, and foreign secretary Boris Johnson has a novel plan on how to encourage that: A giant bridge from England to France.
The Daily Telegraph is reporting that at this weeks UK-France summit, the Conservative minister discussed with French officials the possibility of a bridge across the English Channel, linking the United Kingdom and its southern neighbour.
Johnson has also reportedly talked about the subject with aides, criticising the fact that the single Channel tunnel railway is currently the only land link between the UK and France. “We are two of the world’s greatest economies linked by a single railway,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”
According to Sky News, which also reports the idea, French president Emmanuel Macron was in the room when the idea was raised and responded: “Let’s do it.”
To be clear: This appears to just be an idea at this stage, rather than a formal proposal. And according to The Daily Telegraph, Johnson believes it would be privately funded – meaning a company would need to be found that is willing to foot the bill.
But the challenges facing any such project would be considerable.
Building a bridge across the Channel wouldn’t be easy
For starters, its feasibility would be highly dependent on its precise location. The width of the Channel varies wildly, from its widest at 150 miles to its narrowest at the Strait of Dover, which is around 20 miles.
Even there, it would be one of the longest bridges in the world – though as Johnson reportedly pointed out to an aide, there are longer bridges elsewhere: “Technology is moving on all the time and there are much longer bridges elsewhere, including one that is 34 miles long in Japan.”
It’s not actually clear what bridge Johnson is referring to here, and according to a CNN article published in 2017, the Guinness World Records recognises the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in Louisiana, USA as the longest bridge over continuous water. It clocks in at 23.79 miles.
- NASA/Wikimedia Commons
Even at its narrowest section, the English Channel would present significant logistical challenges not seen in the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway (which is inland), or the Chinese Jiaozhou Bay bridge that spans 16.1 miles in a bay. Instead, the Strait of Dover is a major waterway and the busiest shipping lane in the world, and as such the bridge would require a design capable of accommodating the marine vessels passing through.
The Strait of Dover is also considerably deeper than either Jiaozhou Bay or Lake Pontchartrain – between 120 and 180 feet, versus a reported 49 feet and an average of 14 feet (and max depth of 65 feet) respectively.
And Boris Johnson has run into difficulties building bridges of rather more modest lengths. As mayor of London he was a major champion of the Garden Bridge, a proposed bridge that would have run across the River Thames in London. The plan ultimately collapsed and was scrapped by new mayor Sadiq Khan, but not before it cost British taxpayers more than £37 million.