Boris Johnson Mocked For Suggesting a Bridge Between England and France

U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's proposal that Britain and France should be linked by a bridge across the English Channel has been met with some skepticism.

Johnson brought up the idea during talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, who is on an official trip to the U.K., on Thursday (January 18). Macron seemed to like the idea.

Following the summit at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, the Foreign Secretary tweeted: "Our economic success depends on good infrastructure and good connections. Should the Channel Tunnel be just a first step?"

He added that the summit showed "strong relations" between the two countries, which he described as "close allies and friends" and "the only European countries to be members of the P5, G7, G20 and NATO, and jointly vital to tackling all today's foreign policy issues."

The two countries are currently connected by the Chanel Tunnel that runs under the sea.

Johnson believes it is crazy that "two of the biggest economies in the world are connected by one railway line when they are only 20 miles apart."

Sources close to Johnson said Macron was enthusiastic about the idea of a new link, according to the Press Association.

Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (left) and French President Emmanuel Macron (centre) attend a 'family photograph' at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst on January 18, 2018 in Camberley, England.U.K. During Macron's official visit, Johnson suggested that Britain and France should be linked by a bridge across the English channel. Stefan Rousseau - WPA Pool / Getty Images

The proposal of building a bridge over the channel drew some skepticism.

Trade body UK Chamber of Shipping said in a tweet: "Building a huge concrete structure in the middle of the world's busiest shipping lane might come with some challenges."

Alan Dunlop, an architect and professor at the University of Liverpool, believes that building the bridge would be difficult and extremely costly.

"It's [one of the] world's busiest shipping lanes. Is that not enough? It would be easier, and less expensive to just move France closer," he told the Times.

When Johnson was the mayor of London, he drew widespread criticism after he invested millions of public funds in a plan to build a pedestrian bridge over the Thames. Construction works for the Garden Bridge never started and the project was later scrapped.

"After the Garden Bridge debacle, where Boris Johnson as mayor of London apparently disregarded planning rules, spent £60 million of public cash and a further £37 million was wasted, you would think he would stay clear of building any more bridges. Any sensible person would," Dunlop continued.

On the other hand, some think the project is feasible. Bridge designer and former president of the Institution of Structural Engineers Ian Firth told BBC Radio 4's Today it would be a "huge undertaking, but absolutely possible".

A joint declaration after the summit at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, said: "The UK and France have a long history of collaboration in delivering cutting-edge technologies. Whether pioneering supersonic travel or better connecting our countries through the Channel Tunnel, co-operation between our nations has produced radical innovation.

"We will continue to partner to invest in the technologies of tomorrow, including through a joint scheme, supported by up to EUR100,000 per year, to support academic exchanges, scientific collaboration, and innovation."

English Channel Cargo Ships
Cargo ships are seen as they sail across the English Channel with the French coast on the horizon, from Dover in Britain, January 9, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

How much would the bridge cost?

The world's longest continuous bridge over water is the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in Louisiana. It is formed by two parallel bridges, with the longer one measuring 23.83 miles (38 kilometers).

The bridge opened in 1956 at a cost of $46 million, which would be around $420 million in today's terms, according to Calculator.net's inflation calculator. The second span was completed in 1969 at a cost of $30 million, or around $210 million today. This comes up to $630 million (£454 million) for the project.

In 2011, China opened what was deemed as the world's longest bridge over water, the Qingdao Haiwan Bridge. The 26.4 mile-long (42 kilometer) structure spans the Jiaozhou Bay in the Shandong province.

The exact cost of the bridge is not clear. State-run Xinhua news agency estimated the cost was of $2.3 billion (£1.6 billion), but the Telegraph reported the price at $7.6 billion (£5.5 billion).

Guinness World Records later decided that the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge is the longest over water in terms of aggregate length, while the Pontchartrain is the longest bridge over water in continuous length.

The narrowest part of the English Channel is the Strait of Dover, which is 20.7 miles (33.3 kilometers) long. The narrowest point is slightly shorter than the length of the world's two longest bridges over water, suggesting that the ambitious project could cost anything between a conservative £454 million and extravagant £5.5 billion.

Jiaozhou Bay Bridge China
This photo taken on November 19, 2017 shows participants crossing the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge as they compete in the 2017 Qingdao International Marathon on the Sea in Qingdao in China's eastern Shandong province. AFP/Getty Images