The Anonymous Widower

Think Britain To Belfast Is A Bridge Too Far? Try Tunnelling Across Instead

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article in The Sunday Times.

It is a well-written article, with good graphics and maps, which fills out the descriptive title.

This paragraph sums up the overall objective.

For the rail industry, it is part of a long-term ambition to reduce journeys by rail between London and Glasgow and Edinburgh to below three hours, which it is also advocating in the review. Trains to Belfast would turn west near Carlisle, around the Scottish border, and lorries bound for Ireland could be loaded there.

The article also predicts London and Belfast in four hours, with Dublin in six.

In a A Glimpse Of 2035, I looked into the future and left London at eight in the morning on the first train between London and Dublin and arrived at 13:30.

My predictions were thirty minutes less than The Times.

But I also predicted, that eventually, times will be three hours to Belfast and four to Dublin.

A Deep Water Port At Shannon And Its Consequences

One thing not mentioned in the Times article, is that the Irish Government and the EU have a plan to develop a deep water port at Shannon.

It would have a rail link to any rail link to the UK and would speed goods between Germany and North America, avoiding the increasingly congested ports of Rotterdam and Hamburg. Time savings of as much as a day are predicted.

I should say, that I part-grew up in Felixstowe in the 1950s and 1960s and I can remember a sleepy little dock with a giant crane to lift seaplanes out of the water, before the massive container port we know today. There are now something like forty container trains per day, going along the sleepy branch line to Ipswich and then to the rest of the UK mainland. If anybody had predicted that in 1960, they’d have been laughed at.

If the Shannon Port is built, I can see twenty high-speed freight trains per day between Shannon and the Channel Tunnel. There will probably need to be massive improvements to the freight network in the South East of England, to get all those freight trains through or around London.

Standard Or Irish Gauge

If the EU develops the deep water port at Shannon, this would surely be rail connected to the new tunnel.

But the EU only likes to build standard gauge railways, so everybody can use them. I would expect that all new tracks in the Republic of Ireland would be standard gauge.

If you look at Spain, all their high-speed railways are standard gauge and they have both narrow and Spanish gauge railways as well.

Some of the awkward squad in Ireland will object to the standard gauge railways, but he who pays the piper calls the tune.

As the UK will be paying from London to the place where the tunnel emerges and the EU from South of the Irish border, it would be much cheaper to make all the route standard gauge. But some diehards would be against it!

February 14, 2021 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. How long would a link between GB and NI take to plan and construct? How would the project be impacted if Scotland and / or NI ceases to be part of the UK half way through the construction period? Could Ireland and / or an independent Scotland afford to complete the link?

    Comment by JohnC | February 14, 2021 | Reply

  2. I wonder how they plan to deal with the different track gauges? I.e. Ireland 5′ 3″ to 4″ 8 1/2″ on this side of the Irish sea. I know there are trains that change gauge automatically at the French/Spanish border but, it would require a complete new fleet of passenger stock and what about freight cars.

    Comment by MauriceGReed | February 14, 2021 | Reply

  3. The EU has plans to develop a deep water port at Shannon and if it goes ahead, this would surely be rail connected to the new tunnel.

    But the EU only likes to build standard gauge railways, so everybody can use them. I would expect that all new tracks in Ireland would be standard gauge.

    If you look at Spain, all their high-speed railways are standard gauge and they have both narrow and Spanish gauge railways as well.

    Some of the awkward squad in Ireland will object to the standard gauge railways, but he who pays the piper calls the tune.

    As the UK will be paying from London to the place where the tunnel emerges and the EU from South of the Irish border, it would be much cheaper to make all the route standard gauge. But some diehards would be against it!

    Comment by AnonW | February 14, 2021 | Reply

  4. There’s no money for rail electrification and HS2’s easter leg is under threat but people want to build the world’s most expensive tunnel to Ireland. Nuts.

    Comment by William McIntyre | February 15, 2021 | Reply

    • I used to know the guy, who was the Project Manager for the Channel Tunnel that Harold Wilson cancelled. That was a private venture, that was being built by Rio-Tinto. They would have been paid by all the trains and vehicles going through!

      I suspect that if the EU foots bill for the Irish Republic leg, that someone will fund the tunnel in a similar fashion.

      Look at how funding is never difficult to find for large wind farms and other energy projects.

      Comment by AnonW | February 15, 2021 | Reply


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