Take It to the Bridge

While the coronavirus appears to be running out of steam (well, the viral load of the story appears to be falling, anyway), Boris is back on the plot with a plan for a 28-mile bridge to connect Stranraer in Scotland to Larne in Northern Ireland.

I bet he couldn’t get the old hard hat and high-viz on quickly enough to grab the nearest brick for a photo opportunity. You’ve got to love that Diamonds Are Forever Blofeld henchman look; it’s a standard politician ‘I am a man of action/man of the people’ standby.

You can just imagine the episode of Mr Benn, where Boris dons the ‘builder of the future’ garb and then exits into the real world of chaos and despair.

Like a lot of plans, it sounds great in theory and would appeal to those on all sides of the political spectrum. Strengthening the Union and bolstering links between an independent Scotland with the island of Ireland and the EU. It’s would be a win-win, were it not absolute hogwash.

Take a look at the funding such a project would entail. The figure being touted is £20bn. In truth, if the PM had that knocking about, he would be better off using it on, dare I say it, the NHS. In fact, a betting man would add 40% to that as a starting point, and you can bottom out the context further with contemplation of exceedingly deep water, an underwater munitions dump on the seabed and an abundance of political argumentation that will ratchet up time and resource. As a point of reference, you might recall the £60m project to build the Emirates Air Line (cable car) that ended up being £84m,. Whenever you think of a capital project like this, the concept of ‘budget-overrun’ is a compulsory bolt-on. And public money is the first recourse of the construction charlatan.

But back to the bonkers bridge plan and what stimulates immoderate hilarity about the dumping of the explosives in the Irish Sea is that nobody bothered to draw up a map of where they hadoffloaded them. I wouldn’t want to be the first navvy on drill duty for that job, I can tell you. You also have to take into account the very real risk that ships in the location might stray into bridge supports and the inescapably salient question of ‘what is the actual point?’

I mean, all the shenanigans about HS2 have reflected a great deal of indecision about whether it’s worth connecting the South and the North of England. Don’t rule out this being just a connection between London and the Midlands to effectively enlarge the London economic reach.

We should also not forget that the PM has a little form on the bridge-building front. While Mayor of London, he passed over a few wheelbarrows of cash fot a 366-metre garden bridge over the Thames which was ultimately never built. The tab for that jaunt equalled £53m being spaffed up the wall, of which £43m was public money.

The Scotland to Ireland bridge could be done a lot cheaper with the closest possible connection being only 13 miles, but it’s pointless (or to be precise even more pointless) to have the crossings in areas that have more limited access to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast. Such an option would necessitate significant investment in road development, and on the Scottish side that would put Paul McCartney right off his Sunday nutroast with fume-belching juggernauts honking on through to the Mull of Kintyre. The video for the 2035 remaster of the hit song won’t quite look the same with the Campbeltown Pipe Band playing their bagpipes under a carbon-stained motorway bridge.

Of course, it won’t happen. But while everybody’s talking about it, nobody is mentioning the Office for National Statistics (ONS) report that the UK economy saw no growth in the final three months of 2019. Which would be a relief for many who might be perturbed by any signs of a post-Brexit slowdown.

Meanwhile – while the blond leads the bland, and we are playing political ‘Find the Lady’ with our elected executive, there’s a whole load of quite important events being played out, including talks with the EU (that seem to have dropped off the radar for well over a week) and a General Election in Ireland that nobody really understands anyway. Other than the fact that the Darth Vader bloke looks like he’s been knocked off his perch.

As for everybody attending to the business of government, well I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

unsplash-logoRuben Mishchuk

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