What do we want Scotland to be famous for – building roads or building high speed rail links?

One may say that the cost of high speed rail is prohibitively expensive and as a result comparing road-building with 250mph rail travel is a false dichotomy. I would argue the other way.

The cost of HS2 is set at £32bn over decades of investment. Let’s say that the Scottish share of that is £4bn.

Monies (to be and already) spent on roadbuilding over the past and next few years includes:

M74 – £700m
Forth Road Bridge – £2bn+
M80 Stepps to Haggs bypass – £320m
M8/Aberdeen Western Peripheral – Goodness knows

So, the money is there if the will is there. Of course, the SNP’s short term view is to keep Scots happy enough for the next few years to make sure they vote Yes in the referendum and a 30 year plan for HS2 doesn’t fit into that timescale unfortunately. A counter-argument could well be that a Yes to independence will release the oil revenues that can be used to be spent on upgrading our infrastructure. Sounds good to me, particularly in light of the coming paragraph, but it’s prudent to operate in the expectation that Scotland will remain a part of the UK.

When I was in Norway, a country with oil-soaked ground beneath its seas, I was amazed at the number of tunnels that linked the archipelago of islands around Trondheim. Distances of 2km, 3km, 5km had been bored down through the ground and up the other end, seemingly with little fuss. Similarly, bridge after bridge was crossed on the little road trip that I was on. S, I couldn’t help but ask myself, why is there so much fuss involved and money being spent on a single Scottish bridge?

I decided to do a little reasarch.

There are over 900 road tunnels in Norway with a total combined length of 750km.

The longest road tunnels (>7km, with opening year and length) are:
• Lærdalstunnelen, 2000, 24505 m, world’s longest road tunnel
• Gudvangatunnel, 1991, 11428 m
• Folgefonntunnel, 2001, 11150 m
• Korgfjelltunnelen, 2005, 8530 m
• Steigentunnelen, 1991, 8079 m
• Bømlafjordtunnel, 2000, 7888 m, see also below
• Eiksundtunnelen, 2008, 7765 m, see also below
• Svartisentunnelen, 1986, 7615 m
• Høyangertunnelen, 1982, 7543 m
• Vallaviktunnelen, 1985, 7510 m
• Åkrafjordtunnelen, 2000, 7400 m

The new Forth crossing will be only 2.7km in length and the Norwegians have finished 6 tunnels that are much, much longer since 2000.

So, the crucial question, how much did they cost?

I was only able to find figures for three of these tunnels but the results may make you weep for your Scottish pounds:

Laerdal – 1,082 million kronor (£120m)
Bomlafjord – $61 million dollars (£38m)
Eiksund – 846 million kronor (£94m)

This is a country that is prohibitively expensive. I know of people who take their own potatoes with them over the border because they can’t face buying them in the supermarkets there. And they can still build long tunnels for a fraction of the price of our smaller Scottish white elephants bridges.

There are other comparisons that can be made. China, for example, built a 26mile bridge (longer than the English channel) for £1.4bn, albeit with wages at a much lower rate than you’d have to pay in Fife/Edinburgh.

So if the cheapest countries in the world and the most expensive countries in the world can build bridges and tunnels for cheaper than Scotland can, there is only one question that need be asked….


Why do Parliament buildings, trams, bridges, solar panels, insulation, heck, railway fares even, cost more in Scotland than in other places? Why can Norwegians happily hop from island to island by car and bike but we still have an old-fashioned network around our Highlands and islands?

So much in our would-be country needs to be ripped up and started again, both metaphorically and physically. Where better to start than with rail tracks, tunnels and bridge plans. High Speed Rail from Birmingham to London makes little sense but from Edinburgh to London (and beyond) it most certainly does. Independence or no independence, let’s shoot for the moon, and ask the Norwegians how the heck they do it.