Caledonian Courier State of the Union

You may have heard of the State of the Union address given by the President of the United States every year. In it, the head honcho across the pond reports on how the union is doing and where he or she plans to drive his or her political agenda in the years to come. It’s a big hoo-dah type of thing.

We thought this sounded like a marvellous idea. So, we sat down and came up with the terrifically original Caledonian Courier State of the Nation Address. In this semi-annual feature, we shall take a gander over our great country’s engineering triumphs and tribulations and rate their successes accordingly.

So, without further ado, allow me to officially open the inaugural Caledonian Courier State of the Nation Address.


Queensferry Crossing (A+)

Reports concerning the Firth of Forth’s new bridge have been particularly infrequent. Perhaps this is because the project has been consistently on schedule and on budget. In fact, the latest news (all two column inches of it) is that the bridge is actually limboing in under budget.

“We recognise there are still challenges to overcome in the years ahead,” said deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon when she visited the site. “But it is very pleasing to report that with the first sections of deck being placed just last week, the project remains on schedule to be complete by the end of 2016.”

As the bridge nears completion, the biggest decision is to decide what we spend the £50 surplus on! (If you are reading, Nicola, we are open to offers for broadcasting rights of the Caledonian Courier State of the Union Address.)


The Terrible Trams (F-)

Edinburgh’s shambolic foray into inner-city rail transport started back to 2003, where the Labour-led government announced that they would introduce trams to Edinburgh’s streets for the first time in 50 years. They initially earmarked a cool £375m for the project and estimated that the construction would take no longer than six years.

Ultimately, the tram project ran an insulting five years late and cost £776m, plus another £200m in interest on a loan taken out by the council to complete the works. That’s a jaw-dropping £601m over budget. That’s enough to buy 2.5 billion Fredo bars or 1.2 million used Vauxhall Corsas off Gumtree.

The Scottish Government promised it would hold an inquiry in the omnishambolic project and that it would be conducted “quickly and efficiently”. So, what does “quickly and efficiently” mean? Apparently a two-year long enquiry.

I suppose in tram years that actually is pretty quick.


Highland Main Line (B)

Oft touted as one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world, the Highland Main Line is undergoing a 20-year refurbishment. Phase one, wherein the number of services between the north and Central Belt was increased from 9 to 11 and the running time reduced by 18 minutes, was successfully completed in late 2012.

The next phase, entitled (as you may have guessed) phase two, aims to achieve an hourly service on the line and further reduce running times for freight and passenger trains. Transport Scotland are working with Network Rail and estimate that the upgrades will be completed by 2019.

Good solid work, if a little slow.


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