No, this is not a joke. Yes, this is a serious proposition. Please stop laughing. This might sound daft, but what if we did, in fact, build a bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland? What if Boris Johnson put forward £15bn pledge to build a bridge… to Northern Ireland? £15bn doesn't seem that much after considering it will increase trade, tourism, and strengthen the ties within our United Kingdom.
It might seem a bit far-fetched at first, but the bridge wouldn’t be the longest in the world. No, that title goes to the Zhuhai-Macau bridge from Hong Kong to mainland China, which happens to be 10 miles longer than this proposed route. To add to that, there’s plenty of these apparently “daft” bridges popping up all around the world, between Denmark and Germany, Finland and Estonia. On top of this, numerous engineers, as well as National Geographic, have insisted that it isn’t such a bad idea. So, what’s the problem?
In the UK we have a habit of rubbishing giant infrastructure projects that cost a fair amount with no immediate benefit. High Speed 2 for example, the planned high-speed railway to span across the UK. After the first phase is completed, connecting London to Birmingham and Manchester with high-speed rail, a HS3 across the north of England can be completed. This would link up the likes of Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds, strengthening the idea of a northern powerhouse. And then after that, a fourth phase onto Scotland too, massively reducing the journey times from Glasgow and Edinburgh to all of these major cities down south. Such a system will bridge the north/south divide, increase investment up north and provide jobs in the building and management of the lines. But instead, due to the complications of the project and lack of instant results, it faces a massive amount of public animosity.
This needs to stop. The UK needs to face up to the fact that its infrastructure is seriously underwhelming and lacking in scope. In order to “bridge” gaps in social inequalities, you need to increase opportunity across the whole country. Better roads, railways, airports, and bridges are all required to do that.
So, although this bridge from rural Dumfries and Galloway to Larne sounds a bit far-fetched, all I ask is, why not? Personally, being a resident of Dumfries and Galloway, I can tell you it will be good for the region. These days there’s such a hyper-focus on cities that rural communities feel left behind, and then we wonder why so many people vote with disaffection for the likes of Brexit. Rural communities need to be put on an equal footing with cities instead of being dismissed and caricatured. Dumfries and Galloway is so underfunded and underinvested that 55% of young people apparently plan on leaving. Surely that harks the need for a change?
The financial case is clear. According to the University of Ulster, building the bridge could bring up to a £400m increase per year in the UK economy. Not only this, but other sea bridges have even been shown to pay for themselves, such as Danish-Swedish Øresund sea bridge, which is expected to pay its debts off through the relatively cheap toll rates it charges to vehicles passing over it, as well as creating over 5,000 new jobs in Malmö. So, although the immediate outlay is costly, we can clearly see how there is potential to bring much-needed investment and jobs to two fantastic regions, as well as the wider country.
If all this were not enough to convince you, how about the unionist case? At present, there is so much division and polarisation in politics that this bridge could act as a sign of positivity and strength in our union of nations. Surely it could bring the two communities together and allow Britain to project itself as a forward-thinking, strong, innovative global power, shaking off the divisions, and political infighting that has held us back for the last three years.
So, how about you give some serious thought to a bridge across the Irish Sea?