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Is it time to build that bridge?

The complicated history of the Bahrain-Qatar causeway is vaguely remininscent of Europe's Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

COMMENT, Human Resource

The slow and complicated history of the Bahrain-Qatar causeway is vaguely remininscent of another major infrastructural project: Europe's Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

Talk of digging a tunnel under the English Channel began way back in the 1880s - with the idea staunchly backed by Queen Victoria as a welcome remedy to seasickness. It wasn't until the 1960s that an engineering study established that the high-speed railway linking London with Paris and Brussels was both technically and economically feasible.

But despite boundless enthusiasm from the French, public protest and political wrangling among the British plagued the project for the best part of twenty years - mainly out of fear that it would be yet another spear in the erosion of UK sovereignty.

The scheme was deemed by some as absurd, and nothing but a cost burden to the public purse. But as the politics continued, work continued apace with a workforce of around 8,000.

More than four decades later - and decades largely filled with talk of cost overruns and scepticism over returns on investment - the project is being flagged up as an exemplary engineering feat, and one that is hoped will inspire a new generation of civil enginneers. Earlier this month, the US $10.4 billion project, now rebranded High Speed 1, reached its jubilant climax with the completion of the highspeed track on the UK side extending to the newly refurbished St Pancras station.

The journey time between London and Paris is now just over two hours - far shorter than the amount of time it takes to cross London on the Underground. Hopefully the politics that have so far hampered the proposed bridge linking Bahrain and Qatar will soon be overriden and lead the way to the construction of a similar infrastructural achievement.

A project of such size will inevitably pose many risks, and the actual benefits may not be seen for years to come. The job will also need a strong team of consultants and contractors behind it, along with huge financing.

But if the final product leads to stronger economic, political and social ties between the two countries, then surely that's good enough reason to steer the project ahead.

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