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Saturday, July 10, 2010


Brooklyn Bridge - traditionally sold to the gulible

Lets compare the officially produced costs of a tunnel (100 times what they are elsewhere) with the officially produced costs of a bridge. While them being the same wouldn't prove they were both, or either, honest if they sharply differ on the same points then we must be seeing deliberate fraud.

The costings for the current Forth Bridge at £2,300 million are on page 43 here.

I did an FoI enquiry into the extraordinarily high tunnel cost of £4,673 million a few years ago (at the time a larger bridge was being proposed ad £4.2 bn & the difference looked consistent with it being artificially done to make the bridge price look good) & the costings are here.
Bridge costs in bold, tunnel in italics.

North Network Connections £128m
South Network Connections $62m
Bridge £543m
Junction 1a, M9 £39m
Intelligent Transport Systems (Fife) £11m
Employer’s Costs £115m
Sub-total £898m
so £355m of that on roads
Road Network £ 355 million so precisely the same though since the entry points of a tunnel can be varied whereas a bridge is fixed one would expect tunnel access roads to be cheaper. Indeed it is perfectly possible to start the tunnel beside or very close to the existing bridge access roads thus making road costs close to zero.
Cost of actually building the tunnel £ 1,023 million so ££480 million more than the actual construction cost of the bridge. No further breakdown is given of this & it is 25 times the cost at which numerous tunnels have already been cut.

Risk Allowance £115m
Optimism Bias Allowance £169m
so total £284
Optimism Bias £ 456m 60% greater

Non-recoverable VAT £163m
VAT at 17.5% £ 353m So VAT on a tunnel is double that on baridge. Who would have thought it? Or perhaps half of it is recoverable but inexplicably when costing the tunnel this was accidentally not noticed.

10% extra contingency fee £ 183m No equivalent cost for the bridge.

Total Estimated Capital Costs £1,345m
subtotal £ 2,018m

Addition for Median Estimate of Construction Inflation £529m
allowance for 7.5% inflation £ 1,655m So inflation is going to be more than 3 times higher if we cut a tunnel than build a bridge. Perhaps Holyrood could use this as an argument for more subsidy - just tell David Cameron that if they pay to build 2 bridges inflation will cut to zero ;-)

Transport Scotland budget £ 100m No equivalent item for the bridge. Presumably the Transport Ministry will be taking no role in overseeing a bridge but really need to spend £ 100 million on administering a tunnel which is, to repeat, 2 1/2 times what the tunnel could actually cost to build if built by Norwegians.

Addition for Cost of Capital Charge £170n
capital charges £ 545m So again the "capital charges" whatever they are are officially more than 3 times as much for a tunnel as for a bridge. Of course if we just hired the Norwegians they would be responsible for all extras & this charge would be zero.

Total Estimated Outturn Cost £2,044m with a top possible of £2.300m
Total £ 4,673m

So there you are. Unless the Scottish government is extremely corrupt & engaged in wholesale lying & fraud both the VAT rate & the inflation rate in Britain are guaranteed to be far lower if the Scottish government build a bridge; there will be immensely higher capital costs if building a bridge; the Transport Ministry won't incur any costs in administering it; & the Norwegian Tunnels which cost 100th the total given here simply can't exist.

Does anybody believe any of that?

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Friday, July 09, 2010


veteran Soviet physicist Viktor Mikhailov knows just how to fix BP's oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

"A nuclear explosion over the leak," he says nonchalantly puffing a cigarette as he sits in a conference room at the Institute of Strategic Stability, where he is a director. "I don't know what BP is waiting for, they are wasting their time. Only about 10 kilotons of nuclear explosion capacity and the problem is solved."...

Ordinarily he's an opponent of nuclear blasts, but he says an underwater explosion in the Gulf of Mexico would not be harmful and could cost no more than $10 million. That compares with the $2.35 billion BP has paid out in cleanup and compensation costs so far. "This option is worth the money," he says.

And it's not just Soviet boffins. Milo Nordyke, one of the masterminds behind U.S. research into peaceful nuclear energy in the 1960s and '70s says a nuclear explosion is a logical last-resort solution for BP and the government. Matthew Simmons, a former energy adviser to U.S. President George W. Bush and the founder of energy investment-banking firm Simmons & Company International, is another calling for the nuclear option...

Nordyke says fears that radiation could escape after the explosion are unfounded. The hole would be about 8 inches in diameter and, despite the shockwave, the radiation should remain captured. Even in the case of radiation escape, he says, its dispersed effect would be less than that of floating oil patches

I don't personally know whether this is the optimum response or overdoing it. What I do know is that society being as averse to anything new & anything nuclear there is no chance it will get allowed even if it is. Refusing to look at the options is worse than choosing the 2nd best. It is yet another way in which our society is shying away from any sort of progress.

We know that the claim that radiation at low levels, is dangerous is simply a complete lie which its proponents have been unable to produce any evidence whatsoever to support. In fact at low levels the hormesis theory, that it is beneficial has a large amount of evidence supporting it.

It was different once, before the eco-fascists were given a veto on any actions.
Washington had big plans to use peaceful nuclear explosions to build an additional Panama Canal, carve a path for an inter-state highway through mountains in the Mojave Desert and connect underwater aquifers in Arizona. But the experimental plans were dropped as authorities learned more about the ecological dangers of surface explosions.

The Soviet program, known as Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy, was launched in 1958. The project saw 124 nuclear explosions for such tasks as digging canals and reservoirs, creating underground storage caverns for natural gas and toxic waste, exploiting oil and gas deposits and sealing gas leaks. It was finally mothballed by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989.

The Soviets first used a nuclear blast to seal a gas leak in 1966. Urtabulak, one of its prized gas-fields in Uzbekistan, had caught fire and raged for three years. Desperate to save the cherished reserves, Yefim Slavsky, then Minister of Light Industry, ordered nuclear engineers to use the most powerful weapon in their arsenal.

"The Minister said, 'Do it. Put it out. Explode it,'"
Of course the eco-fascists have their spokesmen too
Vladimir Chuprov from Greenpeace's Moscow office is even more insistent that BP not heed the advice of the veteran Soviet physicists. Chuprov disputes the veterans' accounts of the peaceful explosions and says several of the gas leaks reappeared later. "What was praised as a success and a breakthrough by the Soviet Union is in essence a lie," he says. "I would recommend that the international community not listen to the Russians. Especially those of them that offer crazy ideas. Russians are keen on offering things, especially insane things."

I doubt if Greenpeace's Russian division is funded from Russia. The irony of hiring a Russian spokesman, who is guaranteed so much more coverage in the western media than any indigenous Russian activist would get, to say not to trust Russians is obviously lost on them

The world is built on crazy ideas that worked.

PS Jerry Pournelle has also noted this.

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010


The costed tunnels our government have compared a new Forth crossing to are (PP 6 & ):
Madrid M30 Motorway €792
Kuala Lumpur, SMART US $514M
Dublin Port Tunnel €752M
A86 Paris €2.23Bn
Westerschelde, Hollan €726M
Chongming South RMB 12.3 Bn (app£120M)

Jack Lynch Tunnel Ire IR£70M
Warnow Tunnel, Germany €224M
Öresund Crossing, Denmark DN KR 3.8Bn (app£340m)
Medway Tunnel, UK. £80M

It will be apparent that, despite many of them being far longer than the Forth crossing, these average in the low hundreds of millions. Not comparable with the £4673 price given for a Forth Tunnel & then used as the justification for spending £2.3 bn on a bridge. What may not immediately strike you is that they have omitted any comparison with the Norwegian tunnels which, since Norway has been building hundreds of kilometres of tunnels & it is a country Scotland is regularly compared to may seem strange. One explanation is that the Norwegian costs are so low as much as a thousandth of the cost we are told is required, that even our government is embarrassed. If there is another explanation perhaps somebody can give it.
The Norwegians are world champion tunnelers. They build road tunnels longer and cheaper than anyone else...

the most extraordinary feat of the Norwegians is their low tunnel costs. The Laerdal will cost $130m, just $2.5m/lane-km ($4m/lane-mi.)[£1.7m/km] Other tunnels are regularly built in Norway for $3m to $4m/lane-km.[£2 - 2.6million] In California or Washington DC the environmental studies and public hearings would cost that much
Looks like in Scotland such studies & hearings & mysteriously inexplicable other costs would cost 100s of times as much.

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Monday, July 05, 2010


Mark Wadsworth says
In the Office for National Statistics (ONS) report on the state of the nation... Over the same period [1970 to 2007] housing, fuel and water had replaced food and non-alcoholic drinks as the biggest household expenditure.

7. Now, if housing is now the biggest item of expenditure (which it clearly is, about one third of people's net incomes) and has got more expensive over the last forty years, we'd expect younger people to be living in smaller houses and/or buying a house (and getting married, settling down and having children) later in life. In a related article the BBC reports:

The traditional nuclear family is in decline in Britain as more people chose to live alone or as couples without children, data suggests.[this might be because fewer young people 'settle down' or because older people are surviving their partners for longer]. The number of people living in family homes with children fell from 52% in 1961 to 36% in 2009, the ONS says. In their Social Trends 40 report, official statisticians say 28% of homes are single person households, while 29% contain childless couples. This is up from 11% and 26% respectively on 1961.

The proportion of people living in lone parent households has also increased over the past half century, jumping from 3% in 1961 to 12% in 2009 [blame the welfare system for that, separate issue]. The Office for National Statistics said the most common type of household was the couple family household, but that there had been a "decline" in the proportion of households containing a "traditional" family unit....

The ONS also said women were having babies later. The proportion of babies born to women under 25 in England and Wales was 47% in 1971. This had dropped to 25% in 2008. And fewer people are getting married, with 143,000 first marriages in England and Wales happening in 2007, compared with 340,000 in 1971...
I have previously shown how house prices are at least 75% political regulation. I replied
Demand is exceeding supply but only because the "planning" system prevents supply. If nothing else the fact that technology has improved makes it relatively to build higher & to build arcologies. Thus even if land prices were going up in real terms there could be more gomes per acre.

I have previously shown how house prices are 4 times what they could be so instead of 33% of income they could be 8% leaving us with an average 25% increase in standard of living. The extra spin offs in increased national spending feeding through to higher growth & not having to pay the "planner's" salaries would be enormous.

And Mark has described the follow through advantages of people being able to have families.

His remarks about the consequences of this state parasitism on having children echo what Steve Sailer has been saying, quite independently, about affordable family formation & its role in the demographic disappearance of western nations described by Al Fin.
Germany is shrinking — fast. New figures released on May 17 show the birth rate in Europe's biggest economy has plummeted to a historic low, dropping to a level not seen since 1946. As demographers warn of the consequences of not making enough babies to replace and support an aging population, the latest figures have triggered a bout of national soul-searching and cast a harsh light on Chancellor Angela Merkel's family policies.
According to a preliminary analysis by the Federal Statistics Office, 651,000 children were born in Germany in 2009 — 30,000 fewer than in 2008, a dip of 3.6%. In 1990, German mothers were having on average 1.5 children each; today that average is down to 1.38 children per mother. With a shortfall of 190,000 between the number of people who died and the number of children who were born, Germany's birth rate is well below the level required to keep the population stable.

...The Federal Statistics Office says Germany's population of 82 million could drop by up to 17 million over the next 50 years. Demographers fear a shrinking workforce will stymie growth and struggle to foot the bill for a rapidly aging population. "Germany's working-age population is likely to decrease 30% over the next few decades," says Kröhnert of the Berlin Institute for Population Development. "Rural areas will see a massive population decline and some villages will simply disappear — Germany will become a weak economic power in the future."_Time
There are limits to the state-supported urban lifestyle, and the shrinking populations of Europe, Russia, Japan, and other "advanced" nations are starting to feel the squeeze. Germany is very close to the point of no return.

But why focus on Germany? Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Russia, Japan, and Eastern Europe are worse off than Germany in almost every way.

It all comes round to the fact that we have literally unlimited opportunities if we choose the freedom to take them & can be almost unlimitedly constrained by government parasitism, affecting every aspect of society, if we let it.

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Sunday, July 04, 2010


Stonecutters bridge Hong Kong

The governments report on the comparison with other bridges worldwide is available here from page 14 . They compare the prices not with the £2,000 m it will cost us but the lower £748 price quoted which is not what it will actually cost. Nonetheless other countries prices are far lower. I have taken from the report what are described as "particular challenges" to other bridges (marked -) & reason for the Forth crossing being more expensive (bulletpointed).

Severn Bridge £575 million:
- Long crossing – the longest river crossing in the UK.
- Notorious currents, a 14.5 metre tidal range (2nd highest in world) and strong winds (hostile weather put the project three months behind schedule by 1995).
- The deck had to be installed from a floating barge.
- A rail tunnel was already below the bridge crossing.
- Monorail fitted to the bottom of the bridge for servicing.
• Only two towers, thus no central tower with stability issues.
• Single, shorter span than FRC.
• Depth of water in which the towers were installed is lesser than that faced by the FRC’s South tower and the foundations were simpler.

Mersey Gateway £380 million:
- Three towers like the FRC. In particular a unique design where the central tower is shorter is being employed.
- A curved approach at each end of the bridge.
- A lower deck with space for future light rail system.• Depth of water in which the towers are being installed is substantially less than that faced by FRC’s towers.
• Shorter crossing & FRC’s spans are more than double the length.
• Geology is more benign and environment is non-marine and sheltered.

Millau Viaduct £353m:
- Construction timetable of 3 years.
- Height of towers.
• FRC has longer spans.
• VdM towers built on land, thus simpler push-launching deck construction techniques used.
• Upper towers and cables could be added after deck in place.
• Easier geology and foundations.

Rion Antarion Bridge, Greece £539m:
- Length of crossing longer than FRC.
- Deeper water than FRC and weak seabed.
- This brought the need for rigid pyramid towers – the largest ever built for a bridge.
- Strong seismic activity, possible tectonic movements and high winds.• FRC requires piled foundations rather than pad footings like RA.
• FRC has longer spans.
• RA had more favorable weather conditions for construction.

Stonecutters bridge, Hong Kong £206m:
- Straddles narrow shipping channel near busy container port.
- High deck and towers to allow passage of super container vessels.
- Environmental constraints including fault line under bridge foundations, typhoons, current, visibility and daylight hours.
- Need for prevention of ground settlement to protect existing structures near bridge.
- Scope for structural modifications limited as appearance of the winning project from a design competition had to be maintained.
• Towers located on land and so easier foundations and less ship impact risk.
• Cheaper labour and material costs in Asia• Towers located on land and so easier foundations and less ship impact risk.
• Cheaper labour and material costs in Asia
• Environmental regulations less onerous

Oresund, Denmark/Sweden £804m:
* The bridge also comprises a double track railway on the lower deck.
* An artificial island was constructed to connect the bridge with the tunnel.
* Stringent environmental standards.
* The bridge crosses the Flintrannan shipping channel.
& Rough sea conditions and fitting of piers and spans from floating platforms.
• Two towers compared to FRC’s three.
• Single shorter main span.
• Shallower water for tower installation.
• Simpler spread foundations on well defined geology

To me these excuses or "Reasons why the costs may be lower than that for the FRC" look rather like ideas you might come up with after a few beers & seem contradictory - the reason given for the Greek bridge being cheaper is because the weather is better there (excluding the minor matter of earthquakes) but the weather is much worse in Hong Kong & Oresund; Oresund is described as "well defined geology" when it is built on an entirely artificial island; Severn & Oresund are cheaper because they only have 2 towers but Millau is not said to be artificially more expensive because it has many towers; the Hong Kong bridge is said to be cheaper because of cheap local labour but Hong Kong is actually 17% richer per capita, than we are now; the lack of regulation given as a reason in Hong Kong may be true but if so Oresund, where over regulation is specifically mentioned, should be more expensive unless we are suffering from even more state regulatory parasitism.

However the bottom line is that all the others come in at between £19m & £48m per lanes/km & the Forth one, taking the total cost as £748 million is £72m. However the other bridges are priced in terms of total actual. Taking the full cost of £2,300m which I very strongly expect is the absolute minimum we would end up paying that would be £221 million per mile. Of course if it went over budget like the trams & the parliament building etc it would be far more but I'm sure we will be promised it won't go over budget (just as we were specifically promised the trams & Parliament building wouldn't).

The comparison with tunnel costs is even more blatant.

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