Forth Bridge and Britain’s Decline

This is from a piece by Ian Jack who remembered the opening of its predecessor 53 years ago.

What has been lost? Odd little things: a quiet pice of shoreline a view, a further erosion of Fife’s separateness – which could be argued is for the good. The argument against the car is a bigger loser, while the story of the biggest loss of all lies concealed in the origins of the 3 bridges. Two English civil engineers Benjamin Baker and John Fowler, designed the Railway bridge; a Scottish contractor William Arrol;, erected t using steel and rivets from south Wales, Glasgow and Lanarkshire. The 1964 bridge was also an all-British affair. The firms of Mott, Hay and Anderson, and Freeman, Fox and Partners did the designing; and a consortium comprising William Arrol & Co., and Dorman Long Ltd carried out the work.

The new bridge has a tiny British input: a few box girders from Cleveland bridge, a safety monitoring system from the Arup Group, and 16% of the building work by Morrison Construction. The main designers are American, Danish, Dutch, Swedish and german. The main contractors are American, German and Spanish. The steel comes from China, the concrete from Germany, and the cable stays from Switzerland.

In 1964 a person of a certain age could look back to half a century of terrible events. Looking back at 1964 today, a person of the same certain age can only marvel that Britain was then still an industrial nation and that its decline has been so recent and so steep.

This is not just about engineering skills and the industry. The term engineer comes from an earlier term, ‘ingenious’. By learning technical skills, we learn problem solving, independent thought, both areas which this country is in desperate need as we watch the current leadership herding the country off a cliff edge.

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