Mike Russell, the Scottish Brexit Minister has spoken out about a ‘fixed link’ between Scotland and Northern Ireland. I take it he means a bridge or a tunnel. I agree strongly. There are at least two good reasons to think we can build a bridge in this scale and at least two good reasons why we should.
First, the Scottish Government has already shown itself more than capable of managing the construction of a major bridge. The World Economic Forum identified Scotland’s new Queensferry Crossing project as a model example of good practice:
‘The UK’s new Queensferry Crossing bridge, connecting Edinburgh to Fife in Scotland, offers an example on how to do it. Three good practices contributed to the high-quality process and outcomes: the UK planners diagnosed the problem early; took their time with careful design upfront; and built and sustained an inclusive coalition of stakeholders. The evidence speaks for itself. The Queensferry Crossing – a three-tower cable-stayed bridge with a length of 1.7 miles – opened in early September, well within budget and with a manageable 8-month time delay. This is a rare occurrence among bridges. According to research at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, nine out of 10 fixed links (bridges and tunnels) suffer an average cost overrun of 34% and a time delay of roughly 2 years.’
See this for more detail:
Second, although we’re talking of a 20 mile link this time, a tunnel or a mix of tunnel and bridge has already been shown to be feasible in other parts of the world. The Øresund / Öresund bridge/tunnel linking Denmark and Sweden is only 7.8 miles long but was built more than twenty years ago. Technological improvements since then have resulted in, for example, the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge in China which is the world’s longest sea bridge at 26.4 miles while the combined tunnels/bridges, the Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge (2011), is 102 miles long! Alan Dunlop, visiting professor of architecture at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen and Liverpool University, says a combined road and rail link between Portpatrick in Dumfries and Galloway and Larne in Northern Ireland would cost around £20 billion. HS2 is currently predicted to cost £56 billion.
Third, is Russell’s main argument that the link would help create a ‘Celtic arc’ of prosperity and cultural links. Another fixed link from Ireland to Wales would complete the arc and make possible a faster and greater flow of people, products and ideas than is possible with ferries. The Øresund / Öresund Bridge is estimated to have generated economic gains of 8.4 billion Euros on both sides of the strait. Social and cultural benefits cannot be so easily quantified but are thought to be immense. See (if you have Danish):
Fourth, is an emotional argument (my own) that the people of, especially, Northern Ireland, deserve to be linked more strongly and easily to the rest of the world. They, like the Bosnians, the Kurds or the Palestinians, for example, have suffered at the hands of the ‘great’ empires on their borders. They have been brutalised and, not surprisingly, they have become, at times, brutal themselves. Only acts of kindness can save them from the economic and cultural poverty they still suffer. Giving the people of Northern Ireland easy access to the world of their more fortunate cousins in Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland and beyond can, in time, turn things around.
Bridges are metaphors and the real thing too.