The British lag behind the World at many things but without doubt when it comes to building things on time, on budget and fully functioning, we really do have a record more stony than a biblical execution.
The latest feat of engineering to have us shaking our heads and asking for our
money back is the shiny new Terminal 5 at Heathrow airport.
Costing £4.6b and boasting that it's luggage handling system could move our bags through the terminal faster than you could move yourself through it, it inevitably creaked, wheezed and gave up the ghost on its opening morning resulting in the cancellation of hundreds of flights. At the time of writing the luggage system is working at a reduced rate and still 50 flights a day are being cancelled.
What is really surprising about the Heathrow delays is that anybody is surprised because we are notoriously rubbish at grand scale construction projects.
Jon Bon Jovi was forced to cancel wearing nut crushingly tight trousers at
Wembley Stadium after it rolled up 2 years late and almost £650m more than the £185m originally planned which was still quicker than the British Library which was ten years late and costing £511 million, as opposed to the £32 million predicted.
Alternatively, consider the Scottish Assembly building in Edinburgh, which, when it finally opened, three years off schedule, had cost £431 million, a tenfold increase on the original budget.
Our nadir was the turn of century when we foolishly set about building some great structures which resulted in my two favourite construction debacles.
The project planning for the Millennium Tower in Portsmouth began in 1995 with an opening date of 1999 and was finally unveiled in 2005 and hastily renamed the Spinnaker Tower while the Millennium Bridge in London is a magnificent feat of embarrassment. It had to be closed thirty minutes after it opened because it swayed dangerously when people walked on it because the designers had not adequately wondered about what would happen if people ever walked on it.
I just hope the world isn't expecting to see an Olympics in 2012 because as we are hosting it, we can expect the stadiums to be ready around 2020 if you don't mind waiting.