WHEN US President Donald Trump attends the 48th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, later this month, he will be looking for answers to the problems he faces with his oft-repeated pledge to rebuild the infrastructure of the US.

In which case he should be looking to his mother’s home country and the Queensferry Crossing, according to the World Economic Forum itself.

The forum, which yesterday announced that Elton John would be one of the three winners of its annual Crystal Awards – for his leadership in tackling HIV/AIDS issues – has promoted the Queensferry Crossing on its website as an exemplar of how to do major infrastructure projects.

Comparing the crossing to the Bay Bridge East Span which connects Oakland to San Francisco in California, the forum’s analyst Cameron Bell (pictured right) of the American University of Cairo pulls no punches.

He wrote: “The Queensferry Crossing – a three-tower, cable-stayed bridge with a length of 1.7 miles – opened in early September, well within budget and with a manageable eight month time delay.

“This is a rare occurrence among bridges. According to research at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, nine out of 10 fixed links (bridges and tunnels) suffer an average cost overrun of 34 per cent and a time delay of roughly two years.

“Contrast the Queensferry bridge with that of the Bay Bridge in California, which connects the city of San Francisco to Oakland. The American bridge – a self-anchored single tower suspension bridge with a length of 2.2 miles – blew its budget, costing $6.5 billion, and took roughly 24 years to complete, nearly a decade past its initial projected completion date.

“Conversely, the Queensferry, comparable in scope to the Bay Bridge, took roughly 11 years to plan and build at almost a quarter of the price. The Bay Bridge cost estimate drifted upwards through its life: it started at $1bn (in 1996) and was revised upwards several times: to $1.3bn (1997); $2.6bn (2001); $5.5bn (2005); and finally to the actual cost of $6.5bn (actual outturn cost in 2015).

“The pain has not gone away since the opening of the bridge: costly litigation and quality disputes continue,” he added. “Meanwhile, San Francisco commuters pay the price at the tolls every day.”

Bell’s inquiries led him to some stark conclusions: “Despite the divergent performance, the two bridges had much in common. The design and the physical scope of the two bridges were comparable. For example, the construction consortiums for both links even included the same engineering firm, American Bridge, and the same Chinese steel manufacturer for the superstructure. Yet the cost, schedule, and quality outcomes were remarkably different.

“Both bridges were also critical pieces of infrastructure that had to be renewed. Doing nothing was not an option. The need for the Queensferry Crossing arose because cable inspections of the nearby Forth Road Bridge between 2003-2005 raised red flags and sparked calls for the construction of a new bridge to reduce loads. In the case of the Bay Bridge, the question was how to rectify the damage wrought by the October 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and prevent future failures.

“Renewing ageing infrastructure is a formidable challenge because multiple issues have to be fairly balanced: cost, safety, time, benefits, environment, access, impact on the communities and aesthetics, among others. The Queensferry sets a new global standard in prudently adjudicating among such competing concerns.”

Bell added: “Unusually for mega-projects, the project’s cost estimate was revised downwards several times: £4.22bn (2007); £2.35bn (2008); £1.61bn (2011); £1.45bn (2013); £1.39bn (2014); £1.35bn (actual cost in 2017) – a multi-fold decrease. Despite lowering costs, the Queensferry Crossing is a stunning structure: the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world, and the tallest bridge in the United Kingdom.”

Bell says the Crossing was successfully produced for three main reasons: the inspection regime found the problem with the Road Bridge early; the planners invested time and resources into the upfront design process; and the “integrated project delivery” system mobilised all the stakeholders, including the public, from the start.

The US faces colossal problems with repairing and refurbishing roads and bridges – Trump has said it will cost $1 trillion to rebuild the American infrastructure and has promised $200bn of federal cash for projects.

Bell’s finding is that the Queensferry Crossing could show the US the way to achieve this transformation.