My Column

Bridge idea spans the decades...

  • Date: Monday 16th September 2019
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Just when we thought Boris Johnson was focussed on division, it turns out he wants to build bridges. Who knew?

But Remainers out there, don’t get too excited - this has nothing to do with Brexit. I’m talking about literally building bridges.

The Prime Minister has spoken of his desire to see an actual crossing between Scotland and Northern Ireland, and you bet it will take a pretty penny to do it.

It’s not the first time that Boris has talked about this concept for linking Stranraer with Larne, but it’s back in the news again because he’s since become the head of the government and we finally know what it might cost - a cool £15billion.

Or, as Boris reportedly called it, “only” about £15billion.

ONLY?  To you and me that’s a whopping sum, but Boris makes it sound like just a bit of pocket change.

It’s probably worth mentioning that, while being keen to reiterate this Scotland-Northern Ireland proposal, neither is it the first time that he has mooted the suggestion of an incredible countries-straddling bridge.

Only a year and a half ago, he was said to have suggested one to span the English Channel when he attended a UK-France Summit.

The comments on Twitter afterwards were comedy gold, dripping with sarcasm, and there were even comparisons with Donald Trump and his infamous wall plan.

It seems not everybody was sold on the idea of building a big bridge, slap bang in the middle of a busy shipping lane. Funny that.

So inevitably I took to Twitter again to see what the public thought of this new one.

More than one person described it as akin to building a link with the moon. Another fella wondered where the Government planned to find £15bn while the NHS was crying out for money and child poverty remained a massive issue.

The SNP’s Hannah Bardell didn’t pull any punches either, saying she wouldn’t trust him to build a Lego bridge. Ouch.

On a serious note, one of the big issues with the proposed location for this bridge is the fact it crosses a World War II munitions dump called Beaufort’s Dyke.

This would mean engineers would need to work at considerable depths with the constant worry that something might go boom.

Yet, despite this, not everybody is against the idea. Some think it would provide an excellent economic boost in the long-term.

Presumably it would have to be the VERY long-term to offset that initial £15bn though.

Others believe a bridge option could help cut CO2 emissions when you consider all the short haul flights that go between the UK and Ireland.

I should also mention that Boris isn’t a lone wolf in suggesting this idea.

As I mentioned in my column last year, others have suggested linking the two countries in the past. In fact, the suggestion of a link goes back at least to the 1880s.

Luke Livingston Maccassey proposed a tunnel between Stranraer and Belfast and it was a truly ambitious plan.

It involved a submerged tubular bridge, kept in place with chains and anchors.

Yes, there are a whole range of incredible bridge links in other countries that we could compare with Boris’s proposals.

So maybe, just maybe, it would be feasible.  But let’s say it was - would it really bring enough benefit to justify such a massive undertaking?

Also, on reflection, perhaps it speaks volumes that this idea has come up time and time again and has never come to fruition?

Let’s watch this space. But I rather suspect we’ll be watching it for a long time.

 

SIDE

It was exciting to see the unveiling of a £314 million investment plan for Edinburgh that could see the face of the city centre changing for good - and for the better. 

The proposals should see a significant reduction in traffic, twinned with an increase in footfall to the planned pedestrian areas, an improved shoppers’ experience, and a safer city centre.

They include a free ‘hopper’ bus service which locals and tourists can use to get around the periphery, and better still, officials are claiming that the project could potentially generate up to £420 million of quantifiable benefits.

The plans are also very inclusive which is hugely important if Edinburgh is to successfully heighten access to all. To open up the pedestrianised areas, lifts have been earmarked in key areas to assist those with mobility issues.

There has even been suggestion of a new bridge being built for pedestrians and cyclists to link the Old and New Town.

A huge 80 per cent of the public have already backed the plans to make the capital more people-friendly, which should go a long way towards rubber-stamping it.

The development should also be well-received by environmentalists and custodians of the city who want to reduce the damage caused by carbon monoxide emissions.

With more and more tourist visitors every year crowding Scotland’s capital, there clearly needs to be something like this in place to allow Edinburgh to grow with the times and adapt its transport network in line with sustainable needs.

Of course, some residents will inevitably bemoan new bus routes which will bypass major roads such as Princes Street, Victoria Street and a stretch of the Royal Mile being completely closed to traffic.   

There will also be commuters and taxi drivers up in arms with regards to getting through the city centre, with potential loss of earnings to take into account – but some necessities are simply bigger than others.

Personally, I’m curious to see how this proposal will deal with the knock-on effect of increased traffic on the peripheral areas.

I look forward to seeing how this development progresses and how the issues will be resolved.

 

LAUGH

It made me laugh to see Glaswegians being unable to eraser from their minds the thought of a new stationery brand which is soon to hit the high street.

Locals have been taking to social media to share their joy at the arrival of Typo which has been pencilled in for an October launch at Glasgow’s Buchanan Galleries.

Offering everything to meet your stationery needs, from quirky gifts, homeware pieces, and DIY crafts, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Typo’s success speaks for itself. It is one of Australia’s fastest-growing lifestyle brands, with over 250 stores across 14 countries.

If you can’t sit stationary and wait for the grand opening, you can start shopping the brand online.

I look forward to running the ruler over it myself.

 

WEEP

It makes me very sad to see how Scottish businesses are being affected by Brexit.

Isle of Skye Chocolate has been supplying high-end chocolate products to local businesses and beyond.

Unfortunately, the business owner announced on Facebook that they have taken the hard decision to close the much-loved chocolate company.

The chocolatiers have been struggling to keep afloat for the past three years, and have been ever since the UK voted to leave the EU.

With raw material prices increasing for the company by around 30 per cent due to their chocolate coming from Belgium, and the value of the pound against the Euro dropping, it seems to be impossible for the owners to carry on.

What a sad sign of the times.

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