The Anonymous Widower

The Channel Crossing Problem

My company provided the project management computer system; Artemis, that planned how both the tunnel and the rail link to London was built. So I heard numerous stories of inadequate infrastructure on both sides of the Channel.

I also for a time was a business partner of the man, who had been project manager on a previous attempt to build a Channel Tunnel, that was cancelled by Harold Wilson’s government in 1975, who had a lot of interesting input.

I have heard over the years of these inadequacies,

  • The Dartford Crossing wouldn’t be able to handle the traffic generated at busy times.
  • The Eurotunnel terminal in Folkestone wasn’t built large enough.
  • The port of Dover is too small.
  • The roads to the Port of Dover were inadequate.
  • The rail terminal at St. Pancras doesn’t have the capacity to run services to the places that are better served by train.

The government only has one major improvement in place, which is a new Thames Crossing, but that will only make matters worse, as more traffic will be tempted to cross the Channel to get to Europe.

It is my belief, that we need more innovative services to provide more capacity.

  • A German company called CargoBeamer, is developing a system, whereby unaccompanied freight trailers can be moved thousands of miles across Europe by rail. Their plans include services to Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester and Scotland.
  • I would also run a CargoBeamer service from Calais to Holyhead to create a direct freight service between Ireland and Europe.
  • Ebbsfleet needs to be developed as a destination for the Elizabeth Line and an extra terminal for both daytime and sleeper trains to Europe.
  • High speed freight trains, based on existing 160 mph EMUs could be used.
  • Given the position of the new Thames Crossing on the Isle of Grain, perhaps a new ferry port could be built on the island to partially replace Dover.
  • Could some Eurotunnel services start from Watford Gap?

We have to be bold.

July 24, 2022 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I don’t agree with HS2 in the face of more serious issues on the existing network but if its going to be built it should have been joined to HS1 to allow full size European freight trains to run across the UK. This is crass stupidity of the govt but probably couldn’t be allowed if it looked like it was supportive of Europe.

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | July 24, 2022 | Reply

    • yes, I’m afraid Britain’s long-standing aversion to free movement of people is the root cause of much of this. And I think most people are still unaware that they’ll soon have to pay for a pseudo-visa to travel to EU countries. This will be automated, though, so should make border crossings faster. Atm, border officials have to manually check frequent travellers’ passport stamps to see whether they’ve reached to 90-day limit.

      Now that GB is no longer part of the EU, I’m not sure that running freight to/from Ireland via GB makes sense. There’s been a large increase in direct freight services from Ireland to the continent. Similarly, it’s simpler for transatlantic freight to go directly to the continent, rather than via Liverpool.

      Comment by Peter Robins | July 24, 2022 | Reply

      • and of course if GB goes ahead with tearing up the NI protocol, things could get substantially worse.

        Comment by Peter Robins | July 24, 2022

      • There is an Irish plan to build a deep water port at Shannon, which would be linked by a high speed freight railway to Scotland. But this depends on extending HS2 to Belfast.

        It will eventually happen. But not in my lifetime. Although I did write.

        A Glimpse Of 2035

        My MP must have liked it, as for a time it was on the House of Commons web site.

        Comment by AnonW | July 24, 2022

      • ah, but by then GB/UK will no longer exist, as Scotland will have become independent and rejoined the EU. Ireland rather than England will then be the overland route of choice between Scotland and France. Though the arrival of cheap, low-emission aircraft will mean few people still travel overland.


        Comment by Peter Robins | July 24, 2022

    • At least the Midland Main Line and the East Coast Main Line will end up with the same gauge as the Channel Tunnel. And connected to it. CargoBeamer have certainly worked out how to get one of their trains to Manchester.

      Unfortunately, it appears that the Great Western Main Line never will be because of some restrictions.

      Comment by AnonW | July 24, 2022 | Reply

  2. Agree with most of the points here:
    yes, plug Elizabeth into Ebbsfleet;
    yes, develop Grain as cross-Channel port (with a high-speed, high-capacity rail link, of course);
    yes, HS1 and HS2 should have been, and ought to be, linked;
    yes, there should be cross-Channel sleeper services;
    no, transferring from rail to sea for Ireland isn’t going to happen because that market has already been lost to lower-cost, higher-capacity direct shipping.

    But bold thinking, while desirable, is not a characteristic of British governments or British business. Timidity, conservatism, penny-pinching and shooting-ourselves-in-the-foot petty spitefulness are all too common, however.

    Comment by Stephen Spark | July 24, 2022 | Reply

  3. Interesting that a forecast made in 2018 is already made out of date by Brexit. By 2035 it is quite possible England and Wales could be the poor man of Europe and of little consequence outside the EU while Scotland and a united Ireland could be thriving within the EU.

    Comment by JohnC | July 24, 2022 | Reply

    • Russia will be the poor man of Europe, with few friends and an outdated economy reliant on obsolete fossil fuels.

      Comment by Peter Robins | July 24, 2022 | Reply

    • “Could be” covers a lot of speculation. Let’s revisit that in 20 years’ time. I’d argue that the UK will only become “the poor man of Europe” if it chooses to be. Our future is in our hands, and it’s our duty as citizens to ensure that our country (which remains the United Kingdom, whatever certain people may think) thrives. Hence the need to fight the doom-mongers (no, I’m not a Johnson fan, but on that score he had a point) and push for a more outward-looking, confident, inclusive UK. And that can only be done if we have good, and new, transport links – better rail links and bigger and better-equipped ports in particular.

      Comment by Stephen Spark | July 24, 2022 | Reply

      • The problem I see Stephen is that Britain won’t thrive unless it improves relations with its neighbours, which have sunk under the present government. Opinion polls show a small majority think that Brexit was a mistake, but rejoining would not be easy even if that was the ‘will of the people’. The EU might well require joining the Schengen area (i.e. free movement of people and goods) and adopting the Euro, which would be a hard sell to put it mildly. Norway and CH have thrived outside the EU, but they are part of the Schengen area, and so have no border controls. Similarly, when Ireland left the UK a century ago, it kept open borders – it wanted political independence not border controls.

        The only European territories which are currently not in the Schengen area are various Balkan countries, which all want to join the EU, plus Belarus and Russia, including the exclave of Kaliningrad. This is the company that the UK finds itself in.

        Comment by Peter Robins | July 28, 2022

      • oops, forgot Ukraine/Moldova – now also in the queue to join, of course.

        Comment by Peter Robins | July 28, 2022

  4. I voted Remain twice, but Brexit is now done and we must live with the decision of the majority of the electorate that wanted it.

    Comment by AnonW | July 24, 2022 | Reply

    • I basically agree with you, I’d only point out that of those entitled to vote, a bit over 37% voted to leave, roughly 35% wanted to remain, while the remaining 28 or so percent either don’t care or are incapable of expressing an opinion.

      Comment by fammorris | July 24, 2022 | Reply

  5. Not sure about putting trailers on trains, but why not build a container terminal somewhere near Watford Gap and the convergence of the M1, M6, A5, and A14 on the WCML.

    Oh look here is one I prepared earlier just 5km away: –
    You could even erect a few warehouses nearby: –,-1.163819,5049m/data=!3m1!1e3

    Alright it wasn’t me, but Eddie Stobart.

    Comment by R. Mark Clayton | July 24, 2022 | Reply

    • Did you look at CargoBeamer’s video? I suspect that with a bit of gauge enhancement, that they could run trains from a useful place in Central England.

      Comment by AnonW | July 24, 2022 | Reply

      • A bit if gauge enhancement? Likely to cost bundles, perhaps if Beeching hadn’t closed the Great Central Railway with its larger loading gauge…

        Comment by R. Mark Clayton | July 25, 2022

  6. Worth a look at this (~90s)

    Comment by R. Mark Clayton | July 25, 2022 | Reply

    • nice one, Mark! Had a good chuckle over that. All too familiar, I’m afraid.

      Comment by Peter Robins | July 28, 2022 | Reply

  7. There is a now redundant ferry port at Ramsgate which could be brought back into use
    Also there was a ferry port at Sheerness

    Comment by Hugh Steavenson | July 28, 2022 | Reply

  8. Looking back at the reply AnonW on 24th July concerning a high speed freight line across Ireland and knowing the Shannon deep water port at Foynes, I think you are mistaken at the extent of established plans.
    Yes it’s true that the freight link between Foynes and Limerick is agreed however the situation regarding the upgrade of the railway for extensive high speed freight according to the Ianrod Eireann 2040 video is less ambitious.

    Comment by fammorris | July 29, 2022 | Reply

    • I’ve always thought it was more a wish than planned.

      Comment by AnonW | July 29, 2022 | Reply

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