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Northern Ireland-Scotland Bridge Proposed

Thursday, September 19, 2019

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reportedly expressed interest in the construction of a bridge connecting Scotland with Northern Ireland. To date, he has requested that officials examine financing options and potential project risks.

Documents seen by Channel 4 News indicate that the Treasury and Department for Transport received the requests for information. One of the project risks reported was unexploded bombs in the sea that date back to World War II.

Johnson has proposed bridges that have failed before, however, the most notorious of which being the Garden Bridge, which cost taxpayers 43 million pounds (roughly $53.7 million). Engineers have also voiced concern and criticism over the proposal.

Garden Bridge Fiasco

The nonprofit Garden Bridge Trust announced in August 2017 that it was “winding up” the project, which had already cost London taxpayers an estimated 37.4 million pounds. However, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced in late April 2018 that he was pulling city support from the project, citing what he called “exorbitant” costs to build and maintain the structure.

The pedestrian bridge would have spanned the Thames between the Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge, near landmarks like the Tate Modern. Plans called for the bridge to be covered with vegetation, including 270 trees, and the structure would have been plated with nickel-copper cladding that supporters said would have been maintenance-free for 120 years.

Former London Mayor Boris Johnson was called forward in December 2017 to answer questions regarding the ill-fated project. In March 2018, Johnson alleged that he could not recall why he signed the key directive as mayor of London, while also noting that the funding conditions had been met by the charity behind the project. He was subsequently asked why he had watered down some of these conditions.

In May 2018, a report indicated that the Trust was made aware of several problems with the project before the contract was signed for construction to begin—and of the fact that there was no guarantee the funding could be raised to address these issues.

New Bridge Proposal

According to Channel 4 News, the Democratic Unionist Party believes that Johnson’s new proposed project could mitigate the impasse being caused by Brexit; the bridge would remove the need for a border in the Irish Sea. A government spokesperson told the news station that the government regularly commissions work in order to take a look at project feasibility.

“This PM has made no secret of his support for infrastructure projects that increase connectivity for people and particularly those that strengthen the Union,” the spokesperson said.

This idea is not new, however: Previously, two route options had been suggested, one running from Portpatrick to Larne or near Campbelltown to the Antrim coast. According to the BBC, a suggested 21-mile-long bridge previously suggested would cost around 3.5 billion pounds, but more recent estimates have been much more expensive, ranging more in the 15-billion-pound to 20-billion-pound range, with the 20-billion-pound number being called a “conservative estimate.”

Despite the bridge’s length, it would not be the longest over-water in the world: that title goes to the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, which has roughly 30 miles of its span running over water.

Plans similar to Johnson’s proposal date back to the 1890s, but nothing has yet come to fruition regarding the matter. Dumfries and Galloway Council noted that it was not averse to the proposal, but other matters took investment priority. The Scottish government also emphasized that the matter would need to be further examined before consideration.

Project Criticisms

According to The Guardian, concerns have been raised over the practicality of building the bridge over that body of water, which is up to 1,000 feet deep in certain spots. Engineering designer Chris Wise, who worked on London’s Millennium bridge, noted that a solution could be building something in dry dock, towing it out and letting it settle into place, but when that thing is the height of the Eiffel Tower before sea level is even reached, it would be a significant issue.

“It probably means you’re not going to be putting any supports in there [to hold up the bridge] so then the question is whether the span you’re left with is something that is plausible,” Wise told The Guardian. “Because the biggest bridges in the world are only a mile, or a mile and a bit long for an individual span [without a support].”

Wise also voiced concerns over financial estimations being offered before a concrete building plan was in place. David Barwell, the CEO of AECOM for the U.K. and Ireland, noted that it was “dangerous talking numbers at an early stage in the project.”

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; EU; Europe; Government; Infrastructure; Program/Project Management; Project Management

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (9/19/2019, 7:50 AM)

One would think that tethered floating supports would be possible, much as are being explored for offshore wind turbines in deep water such as off the coasts of California and Hawaii.


Comment from Simon Hope, (9/24/2019, 5:00 AM)

Tethered semisub technology is already there and proven in the North Sea both for oil production way back in the 1980s with the Hutton TLP (Tension Leg Platform) due to water depth and also floating tension moored offshore wind turbine foundations, the first being off the coast at Peterhead. A bridge based on this technology would be quite feasible and as the construction of most the components would be onshore, weather would be heavily mitigated.


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