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Saturday, May 29, 2010


Holyrood is preparing a bill to build a new Forth crossing costing £2.3 billion(at least so we are told). The previous bridge, which was larger than this one, cost £19 million which, after inflation, is £320 million. This price is also comparable with other such projects around the world. So why the difference? Considering that this amounts to £20 million per MSP, between £17.3 & £19.6 million & of which is above comparable costs elsewhere in the world I think every single MSP should be able & willing & able to explain the discrepancy before proceeding to take it from our pockets.

I emailed my constituency MSP, Patricia Ferguson & all of my regional MSPs, Bill Aitken, Robert Brown, Bob Doris, Patrick Harvie, Bill Kidd, Anne McLaughlin, & Sandra White asking them this question. I also asked why the official price for a tunnel was £4.3 billion when this is 100 times the price the Norwegian government have cut numerous similar road tunnels for. Of them all only Brown replied. I have published it below with my fisking, returned to him. My responses in bold.

While the reply basically depends on lies, assertions that there must be other factors, unspecified, that make Scottish geology many times more expensive than the rest of the world's & than Scottish geology was when we built the previous road bridge, plus assertions that our politicians (who have been proven corrupt, lying, murdering, genocidal, child raping, thieving, organlegging criminals) approve it so we should just trust the apparently clinically insane scum HE STILL DESERVES CREDIT FOR BEING THE ONLY MSP WILLING TO REPLY TO A CONSTITUENT about taking £500 from every single one of us. The fact that 86% of our politicians are so corrupt & contemptuous of the people they are taking money from is disgusting. I did send a letter mentioning this failure to even reply by MSPs but the Scottish media, typically, have decided not to report it. The fact that the MSM are working as lookout men during politicians' multi-billion pound heists explains a lot.

I have since found that the Forth bridge proposal is the 3rd most expensive in the world after Japan's (nearly twice the width, nearly twice the length & proof against hurricanes & earthquakes & the Oresund bridge & tunnel complex mentioned, wider & 5 times longer)


Thanks for your note on this. I share your scepticism on the costs (although the comparison with the original bridge had not occurred to me).

I attach a note of some research our researcher did on this which you may find of interest. The source material is largely the SPICE briefing which is mentioned.

best wishes,


Indeed - here is my previous research on the cost of the previous bridge which converts with inflation to £314.96 million. I do not think that the claim that Scotland has an unspecifiedly uniquely expensive geology holds much water in any case but since the geology of the Forth in 2010 cannot be greatly different from that in 1960 it is clearly false.

Mr Craig’s point of view is not an uncommon one.


The Forth Replacement Crossing (FRC) has received a lot of criticism from various quarters regarding its cost in comparison to other projects of an apparently-similar scale (if not larger/more complex).

Such criticism has prompted SPICe’s Financial Scrutiny Unit to produce the below briefing analysing the costs of the FRC:

Although the second half of the briefing is dedicated to the construction inflation associated with the project, the first half deals with the structure itself, and its summary provides a comparison between a number of different projects across the world. I’ve included an extract from the summary below:

‘The final measure, illustrated in Figure 10, takes into account this provision by measuring the weighted cost of each square km of bridge and approach viaduct is (thus factoring in their width, not just the number of lanes). Once this is factored in, the cost of the FRC is largely on par with other similar bridges such as the Rion-Antirion, Mersey Gateway and Second Severn bridges. The Øresund bridge is the most expensive (but this also has a railway not factored into this cost analysis) and the Viaduct de Milau and Stonecutters bridges, which both have towers only constructed on land, are much cheaper.

This graph appears fraudulent. The Oresund bridge, shown here as the most expensive per km cost 30.1 billion krone. just under £3 billion. This is for a 4 lane plus 3 rail track complex of 8km in total. See That is clearly at least an order of magnitude cheaper per lane/km than the proposed Forth crossing.

Oresund bridge & tunnel entrance - over 3 times the length & nearly 3 times the width proposed

Thus, the analysis indicates that while the FRC is the most expensive amongst comparators on the basis of cost per km of operational lane, this does not take into account the fact that the FRC has two hard shoulders designed to be able to operate as full running lanes if needed. Once this is taken into account the cost of the FRC becomes on par with other similar bridges.’

No it doesn't - even with that fiddle it would still be many times more expensive.

From this analysis, it would appear that, although the bridge seems more expensive than its ‘peers’ at the outset, once various aspects are taken into account – not least the two hard shoulders included in the design - the FRC’s costs appear relatively average.

Similarly, it is also worth noting that, due to their unique environments, no two bridges are the same and thus it is difficult to make direct comparisons of price. When asked about this very issue at Stage 1, Martin Cullen, a chartered civil engineer, a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers and an honorary Fellow of the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors, stated that different bridges are built to accommodate different environments and different challenges, which would imply different – and arguably incomparable – costs.

Which is why the comparison with the previous bridge is so decisive. To quote myself
"Reminds me of a scene in I Claudius where Claudius, having been told Rome needs a new harbour & given estimates looks up the records for a similar scene in Octavian's time & finds that his civil servants have given him a vastly inflated figure."

108. The Convener asked Martin Cullen—

“Is it reasonable for people to make comparisons based on lifting, for want of a better word, a bridge or tunnel that serves an entirely different project and moving it into this location?”

109. Mr Cullen responded—

“In short, it is not possible to lift one bridge or tunnel design and put it into another location, because the geology of every site is different. Even the bridge at Kincardine that was built recently is entirely different from the Forth bridge because it suits that site. The geology there is entirely different.”24

“It is not possible to take a bridge from one site and move it to an entirely different one. The same applies to a tunnel. There are examples of where tunnel boring machines can be used to bore through and the rock is self-supporting—it will stand there by itself. However, the Channel tunnel, for example, goes through a variety of different rocks, but it has to have a supportive structure. In such examples, as the engineers go along, they cut and provide a supporting structure. Progress is limited by how far they can go. They watch what is happening to the rock, how much water is coming in and so on. Geology is complex. No matter how much excavating you do and how many samples you take, it is very difficult to predict precisely what you will find.”25


With regard to the tunnel aspect, a Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) process – The Forth Replacement Crossing Study – was undertaken concerning the crossing between August 2006 and June 2007, and although several tunnel options were considered, a bridge was apparently chosen, according to the Forth Crossing Committee’s stage 1 report, ‘as the best option as it was considered cheaper than tunnel alternatives, easier to implement, had a shorter construction time and fewer risks associated with the ground conditions.’

While Mr Craig could dispute the price of the tunnels mooted (and thus their being more expensive than the bridge alternative), it does seem as if the various tunnel options went through the appropriate STAG review process - a process which was also peer reviewed - and so it would be surprising if any costs had been deliberately inflated or were artificially high. (To lend further credence to this view, from a cursory glance of the Stage 1 report, it seems that no criticisms were made of the STAG process by the Forth Replacement Crossing Committee).

It might or might not be surprising, I don't know since I can only guess how our government is run, but it is certainly the truth. The Norwegian tunnelling costs have already been published by me here "this makes tunnelling costs from £3.2 million per kilometre to £10 million. Even with multilane dual carriageway & motorways we are talking about a pretty fair saving". This the total cost for a comparable tunnel would be likely to be well under £45 million i.e. well under 100th of the cost we have been quoted.

The value of "peer review" has, as can be seen in the climate fraud by which Scotland's politicians have determined to halve the size of our national wealth, only as good as the degree to which the "peers" are independent of the people they are meant to be judging rather than in cahoots with them. I would be interested to know who the "peers" are, how they are appointed & if any of them have any relationship with the government.

Although Mr Craig could be correct in saying that these tunnels are more expensive than similar tunnels in Norway, given the STAG processes involved it seems likely that any such cost disparities would be genuine, and a result of the unique circumstances of the project/area (such as the topography of the Forth, which was estimated to have the potential to increase tunnel costs dramatically).

The writer may not know that back when we still mined coal in the area the mines on the north & south of the Forth had a connection. If anything this would suggest local circumstances would reduce prices rather than increasing them 100 fold.

I would also refer him to the Glendoe power scheme where the entire project was completed for about £120 million indicating that the tunnels, cut by a German company, were of a similar order of cost to the Norwegian ones.

Furthermore, it is probably also worth mentioning that even if a dramatically cheaper tunnel option was available, it may still not have been selected for other reasons. For example, while taking evidence on the Bill at Stage 1, Martin Cullen, as mentioned above, stated that ‘Geologically, the area is extremely unpredictable’ – an aspect which would have adversely affected the practicalities of a tunnel. Similarly, other groups opposed the tunnel on haulage and transport grounds, as the transport of some hazardous materials may be forbidden in a tunnel, but not on a bridge.

Again I mention the previous coal mine tunnel. If it is being said that the reason for rejecting a £40 million tunnel is because of alleged opposition from hauliers of toxic substances such intimations of opposition should be published as should the subsequent cost benefit analysis which allegedly showed that spending an extra £2,260 billion to prevent such lorries having to go the long way round was justified.

Such comments serve to highlight the fact that tunnels were not just seen to be – legitimately – costlier, but also, potentially, riskier (an aspect which probably contributed to a bridge ultimately being selected).

Therefore, to summarise:

Comparative bridge cost – Although appearing deceptively expensive when compared to other bridges at first, when certain design aspects of the Forth Replacement Crossing are taken into account (such as the two hard shoulders), the cost of the bridge becomes much more typical/acceptable. Furthermore, given the unique aspects and environment of every bridge, it has been noted that it is very difficult – and perhaps inaccurate - to make direct comparisons between various crossings in different locations.

Tunnel alternative and legitimacy – Primarily, the option of a tunnel was considered ultimately more expensive than a bridge (it was also deemed more difficult to implement, riskier and would take longer to construct). Secondly, the costs associated with the tunnel proposals were STAG reviewed and thus are likely to be legitimate. Thirdly, if these costs are indeed more expensive than other international examples, such as Norway – which is entirely possible – this is probably a result of genuine disparities and unique location factors (such as topography). Finally, even if a dramatically cheaper tunnel option – reflective of other international examples – was available, it still may not have been preferred to a bridge for other reasons (geological activity, haulage restrictions, etc).

May I ask for your assurance Mr Brown that, under no circumstances, will you support or fail to make your objections known, to any proposal that would, on the actual evidence available defraud the Scottish electorate of £2 billion plus. Evidence would include publicly available statements from the various groups which had produced the Norwegian tunnels, the glendoe tunnels, the Oresund Bridge/tunnel & other comparable projects saying they had been invited to tender & refused for particular stated technological reasons.

Assertions that STAG or other parts of the Scottish government have approved it & so simply for that reason "it seems likely that any such cost disparities would be genuine" are not actual evidence.

Robert Brown subsequently replied that he did not intend to continue the discussion & that despite his "scepticism" of the costings he would not be willing to speak or vote against the proposal because he is not the official LibDem spokesman on the project.

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I know something of geology and ground surveys and so it should be a simple matter of getting the initial geological report published (FOI request) and see what particular factors make this location uniquely difficult to build on. We can then ask:

1. If it is so expensive/difficult here, could an alternate location nearby not be considered?
2. What technological solutions (deep foundations etc) are considered necessary over and above normal bridges and what is their item cost?
3. Can the audit commission look at the proposals and sign them off as best value/best solution by asking the institute of civil engineers to endorse the proposed design and cost.

If they won't do that, then we can draw obvious conclusions.
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