Cruise & Ferry Review - Autumn/Winter 2020

COMMENTARY A bridge too far Michael Grey outlines why ferry services offer a more flexible and cost-effective option for transporting people between Northern Ireland and Scotland than UK Government’s proposed bridge across the Irish Sea MICHAEL GREY Michael Grey is a master mariner turned maritime journalist and has edited both Fairplay and Lloyd’s List in a career spanning more than 60 years. W hy are politicians so enthused by massive capital projects such as a bridge across the Irish Sea, the possibility of which is currently being investigated at the behest of the UK’s prime minister Boris Johnson? What’s not to like about such a scheme, which would usefully employ thousands of construction workers, and require UK companies to manufacture vast quantities of cement and concrete, steel and advanced technology? And in the desperate world of post-Covid-19 economics, such schemes will likely be favourable with a broad range of stakeholder, including voters and contributors to political parties. I can remember interviewing the sorrowing CEO of the Dover Harbour Board in the 1980s when it appeared that the dreaded fixed link across the English Channel was going to go ahead, spelling doom for ferry operators. He suggested that there was a ‘triangle’ that needed to be completed for such projects to go ahead; the availability of technical solutions, the means of paying for it, and political will. Of these three, he said, the last was the most essential for any grand project to take shape and, with the approval of then prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s government, there shone the green light. Although you might say that Eurotunnel is up and running and the ferries are still prospering, it’s worth reminding yourself that all the investors in the original privately funded project lost their shirts and Photo: Google maps Experts have suggested two potential routes for a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland 1 0 7