"A man is a very small thing, and the night is very large and full of wonders." -Lord Dunzany

Archive for 6. October 2010

A Bridge Too Far…


Hålogalandsbrua - Hålogalandsbroen

Hålogalandsbrua (computer model) - Envisioned by the engineers in the bridge consortium


They are building a bridge. (The 8th longest suspension bridge in the World) They are shutting down the local Narvik Airport. This is “A Bridge Too Far…” Politicians in the area have given away the milk cow (i.e.: the local airport) in exchange for a cold glass of milk (i.e.: the bridge). And the not so friendly politicians in Narvik’s neighbouring city Bodø has clapped their hands and supported the idea, well aware of the disadvantage this exchange will have for the region. Now, comparing these two infrastructural factors is just as useful as to compare a grape to a pea… They serve two totally different, and equally important, areas in the stimulation of the economy in the region.

The time saved on the road traveling by the new bridge, compared to the “old” road and bridge, is exactly 20 minutes. That however is not the main factor in the question of building this multi-billion (NOK) bridge. The main argument has been saving lives by eliminating a very winding and accident proned road. This makes for a very good argument – if it was not for the local hospital. The local hospital is one of the worse examples of total lack of quality management. For that reason more than 300 emergency flights are made annually to the University hospital in Tromsø, UNN (and som the the county hospital in Bodø). That is almost one flight per day. Quite a few of these flights are life-saving and time is of the essence. The ambulance ride from the local hospital to the local airstrip takes approximately 5 minutes (from point A to point B on the map).

Here lies the short sightedness of politicians more interested in building a monument for their own period of reign, than the well being of the citizens. A new bridge will be a most welcome supplement to the region. After all this is the European road No. 6 (E6) running through Norway, and Narvik and its region is a technological and industrial locomotive for the region. But when all things’ said and done. The number of lives saved on the road by the this new bridge is easily weighed up by the number of lives lost when the time traveled from the hospital is not as today’s 5 minutes, but 45-60 minutes on a long, dark and most of the year icy road (crossing one mountain-pass) to the nearest regional airport. In addition to this, the air traffic in the regional airport has a much higher density, thus possibly adding to the flight-time of ambulance flights.

The new route for patients: From the hospital (point A) to the point where the new bridge will cross the fjord (point B) where the new “bridge road” will intersect with the current road (point C) and finally the regional airport, Harstad/Narvik Lufhthavn Evenes (point D).

The politicians in Narvik “celebrated” a while back in the newspapers by toasting with water from Narvik, when the plans for the new bridge and subsequently the closing of the local airport was decided. As far as I am concerned they can toast in their water until they drown, as long as they have traded the life-saving and pivotally important Narvik Airport for a monument over themselves. Oh, and yes, if you think trading the airport for a new bridge will give you a free ride across the fjord, think again! The price might be as high as 540 NOK for a round trip across the bridge…

When it comes to the question Bridge OR Airport?:
-BOTH, please!

Soon to be history, landing at and taking off from Narvik Airport, Framnes

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