Cruise & Ferry Review - Autumn/Winter 2020

government money was required to see it through. Surely there are better ways of using up manpower and materials, which would be of greater benefit to more inhabitants of Northern Ireland and Scotland than a fixed link across the Irish Sea? But as the economic pressures increase, one can see the political sun shining ever more brightly on those probing the possibilities. These great ideas tend not to go away – think about the great Danish and Japanese fixed link bridges – so it is important that ferry operators put up a convincing case against these vast monuments to political hubris. In the case of the Irish Sea, some of these arguments would appear to be obvious. The natural obstacles between Northern Ireland and Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland are formidable in the shape of the fierce tides which run through the North Channel, the frequency of extreme weather over that stretch of water, and the depth of the water which has a 270-metre-deep trench running down the middle. There are also some significant man-made obstacles within this deep water in the form of thousands of tons of surplus explosives that were tipped into it following World War II. And the geology is very different from the yielding chalk marl which was found between France and England; hard rock and lots of it. But why on earth do we need a fixed link to funnel all the traffic from the island of Ireland into a sparsely populated part of Southern Scotland? It would require a vast sum of money to be spent on modernising roads which were never designed for such traffic. And, if we have existing ferry links that take traffic between places where people actually wish to travel, what is the point of putting these at risk for the sake of a few political points? If your trailer from Galway is bound to Goole, why would you take in the Mull of Galloway? Is there any real demand for such a construction? We must also bear in mind that traffic projections turn out to be notoriously nonsensical, invariably favouring the project proceeding. In the arguments about ferries and fixed links, it is the flexibility of ferry operations that need to be emphasised. If the demand is there, so will be the ferry link. If it increases, there is the option of bigger ships and more of them. It is a perfect market-based solution, both local and strategic. And, as always, the flexible links of ferries come at a fraction of the price of great structures of steel and concrete, no matter what a marvel of civil engineering they might be. CFR The Irish Sea bridge could function in the same way as Øresund Bridge, which is a 16 kilometre-long road and rail link between Sweden and Denmark Photo: Øresundsbron 1 0 8