The Boris bridge goes nowhere and our infrastructure still limps on - Scotsman editorial comment

The scrapping of plans for a fixed link between Scotland and Northern Ireland may not have come as a complete surprise to Scotsman readers.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Northumberland on Monday. Scott Heppell/PA Wire
Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Northumberland on Monday. Scott Heppell/PA Wire

Little engineering expertise is required to intuit that building a bridge over the notoriously stormy North Channel would be a difficult task. That would be so even without consideration of the famous munitions dump at Beufort's Dyke, which lies across the proposed route.

A tunnel might burrow under the sea and those munitions, but the 30-mile distance would make it hugely challenging to build.

Even with those fundamentals overcome, the economics of the estimated £20bn cost would, also, be difficult to justify given the relatively small populations within reasonable distance of each end of the bridge.

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Little wonder that Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson' s former aide, called his former master's pet project the "world's most stupid tunnel".

We can only speculate as to whether it was wild optimism, deep cynicism, or a combination of both that led Boris Johnson's government to invest so much time and energy in investigating the possibility of the fixed link.

Certainly, grand infrastructure projects have long been offered up by politicians keen to secure votes with their strategic vision, and create a lasting built legacy should the projects ever come to pass.

Even in Scotland, the SNP dreamt up a "bridge to Dunoon" just in time for this year's elections. We wager that will never be built, either.

But not all infrastructure ideas are dreadful ideas. The reason they are popular is because we all have to use pieces of these vital links regularly.

Ask those who depend on Cal Mac ferries on Scotland's west coast. As our sister title Scotland on Sunday described this week, those services support businesses, livelihoods and life itself - yet are based on an ageing, failing fleet.

And, across the country, the quality of our existing roads, and rail services, are often also grimly poor.

What we all need is not more grandiose plans, or bickering between Holyrood and Westminster on who should do what. Instead, more effective delivery of real improvements to the infrastructure we already rely upon might provide the economic fillip our nation needs, and the electoral fillip our politicians desire.

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