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Friday, July 01, 2011

More on Scottish Tunnels

A tunnel from Gourock to Dunoon would be a great convenience for people on both sides of the Clyde and bring the Cowal Peninsula into Scotland's central belt. More than that it should be the start of a series of tunnels connecting to Rothsay, Kintyre, Arran and even Jura and Islay.
We know all this would be possible because that and much more has already been done - in Norway, over the last 25 years, they have cut over 900 tunnels with a total length of over 750 km . Many of them are undersea tunnels up to 25 km long. They have cost, on average, no more than £4 million per km.

A 2 lane tunnel between Gourock and Dunoon should cost between £10 and £20 million. This is petty change compared to the £2,300 million the 4 big parties have promised to put into a new Forth Bridge, despite the fact that nothing more than maintenance is required there. Indeed reading the debate on that bridge it is clear that they all expected it to go over budget and were glad that all 4 could present a united front and "attempt at some education to make people understand what we are getting for that level of expenditure"  Theoretically surprising then that when I asked every MSP to explain why the bridge was costing so much only 2 suppoerters answered - one was simply an acknowledgement and promise to give a full answer later, for which I am still waitong. The other, or rather his researcher, produced flannel and refused to give fuller answers when asked.
The great improvement in the road transport system in Norway has been one of the main drivers in it becoming the wealthiest per head of any sizable country in Europe (the second richest is Switzerland, also outside the EU) . This Scottish Tunnel Project would bring all the West Highlands into the Scottish mainstream.

This project has been suggested to all the Holyrood parties, repeatedly over many years, but none of them have shown any interest. None of them have even shown enough interest to give reasons why they are against it. They just are.

 We know it it is possible to cut such tunnels for a tiny fraction of what our political masters demand because it has been done so many times across the world. It is reminiscent of the Edinburgh trams, where if it cost the same as elsewhere in the world it would now be completed for £110 million or the Parliament building where Donald Dewar rejected a fixed price offer of £40 million, solemnly promising that his government would do it, without assistance for that price.
Scotland's whole economy would be enormously improved by a modern transport system making the country accessible. All the effects of the Highland clearances would be reversed. Inverclyde would become a transport centre for the whole, revitalised, far west of Scotland. Gourock to Kintyre would, at under 25 miles, be a quick dual carriageway drive rather than the present hundred miles by 19th century roads.. We know this can be done at a reasonable cost because it has been done worldwide. Scottish engineers have run far more complicated projects than this, worldwide, but they have not had to put up with Scotland's political class to do so.

Even if our political establishment refuse to invest a penny in this, after all they have to continue pouring £1,000 million a year into subsidising windmills, don't they, there is still a way of doing it. Introduce a land capture tax of £10,000 on any new house built across the Clyde in places where land values go up because of new transport links and create an independent publicly owned company who receive that money and can use it to fund tunnel links across the west Highlands & Islands (and ultimately other parts of Scotland) without interference from the politicians. This is a form of PFI and would probably be more expensive over the long term than government just paying for this out of petty cash but can we trust the old parties to do it, speedily, that way?

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To answer the question of why they haven't considered this - simple there isn't a politician that knows anything about engineering and all the 'advisers' only tell them what they want to hear. There is also the ego thing - everyone can see a bridge, if they travel over it or not, not so a tunnel - that you have to travel through, therefore the bridge wind the ego trip for those that proposed it.
When being right (as you clearly are) is irrelevant, it is only one step to being criminalised. I applaud your ongoing efforts to bring sanity to the mad house
Great blog. The Norwegians have used a new tunneling technique in Oslo harbour. Cheaper in faster than conventioal tunneling.
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