The Anonymous Widower

A Solution To The Northern Irish Problem!

I am an engineer and therefor tend to favour practical solutions, that are often radical.

The Brexit negotiations are at an impasse over how you deal with the Northern Irish-Irish Republic border.

We only have to look back to the Second World War, where smuggling was rife between a neutral Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.

I believe there is no way to enforce border rules without a border wall in the style of Donald Trump.

That would be unacceptable to probably everyone in the island of Ireland! And probably almost 100 % of the citizens of the UK!

Joint British And Irish Long-Term Objectives

We can sum these up the objectives of the British and Irish people for the island of Ireland like this.

  • Prosperous economies.
  • Full employment
  • Friendly relations at all levels
  • A well-maintained And thriving environment
  • The final end to The Troubles.

The governments involved don’t always seem to follow sensible routes, that will help in these and other similar objectives.

An Anglo-Irish Fixed Link

I don’t think anybody, except possibly some ferry companies and airlines, would disagree with the fact that the Channel Tunnel has been a success.

Although, I would say that services through the tunnel have been slow to develop.

So surely, one way to improve the economy of the whoile of the island of Ireland would be to create a fixed link across the Irish Sea.

Wikipedia has a section entitled British Isles Fixed Sea Link Connections.

It lists four possibilities for fixed links between Great Britain and Ireland.

  1. North Channel (Kintyre) Route
  2. North Channel (Galloway) Route
  3. Irish Mail Route
  4. Tuskar Route

Some are more practical than others.

Political Considerations

Post Brexit, I don’t believe that any UK Government would want to contribute any money to a fixed link between Wales and the Irish Republic.

I also feel, that the Irish Government and the EU wouldn’t want to contribute to a fixed link between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

But I do believe that the EU could be persuaded to provide funding to create a high speed rail link between say Belfast, Dublin and Cork.

Practicality

Route 1 is the shortest at just 19 km, whereas routes 3 and 4 are the longest at 100 km.

Route 1 unfortunately, is the only route without a rail connection on the Great Britain side. Any rail link to the main UK rail network would be a challenging undertaking and probably go through environmentally-sensitive areas

The North Channel (Galloway) Route

I believe that the North Channel (Galloway) Route, is the only route that stands a chance of getting built.

Wikipedia says this about the link.

This route has been proposed variously as either a tunnel or a bridge. A 2007 report by the Centre for Cross Border Studies estimated building a bridge from Galloway to Ulster would cost just under £3.5 billion. The proposal would see passengers board trains in Glasgow then cross the bridge via Stranraer and alight in Belfast or Dublin. A longer bridge already exists between Shanghai and Ningbo in east China. Some political parties in Northern Ireland have included the bridge in their manifesto for some time. However, because of the Beaufort’s Dyke sea trench, this route would be deeper than the southern routes. The sea trench was also used for dumping munitions after World War II and so would require an expensive clean up operation. Ronnie Hunter, former chairman of the Institute of Civil Engineers Scotland, suggested that the project was a “stretch but doable”. He cited the lack of “soft rock, the chalk and sandstone” as a challenge compared to the construction of the Channel Tunnel. He also suggested that the change in rail gauge between Ireland and Britain might pose further concerns.

These problems must be solved.

Bridge Or Tunnel?

Having been across the Oresund Bridge, I believe that Civil Engineers could find a solution to crossing between Stranraer and Northern Ireland.

The crossing would be in excess of thirty kilometres long. But look at Wikipedia’s list of longest bridges and there are several a lot longer, including this 164.8 km. monster; Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge, which carries the Beijing–Shanghai High-Speed Railway along the Yangtze River.

Beaufort’s Dyke

The Oresund Bridge is part-bridge and part-tunnel and this was obviously a good solution to crossing the Oresund strait.

I believe that mixing various types of crossing could solve the Beaufort’s Dyke problem and provide an affordable solution to the crossing.

Rail Connection In Scotland

The Glasgow South Western Line finishes at Stranraer station and could surely be extended to the crossing.

Electrification would probably be recommended.

Rail Connection To England

Intriguingly, there used to be a railway route from Stanraer to Carlisle via New Galloway, Castle Douglas and Dumfries.

When HS2 opens to Crewe in 2027, I believe that high speed trains could possibly break the four hour barrier between Euston and Belfast.

An electrified route between Carlisle and the crossing would be needed.

Rail Connection In Northern Ireland

This Google Map shows the location of Belfast Central station in the city.

Note.

  • The station is on East Bridge Street in the bend of the River Lagon
  • The lines crossing the river and then splitting to go East and North West.
  • The lines going South from the station towards Dublin.

It would appear to be very convenient.

It would be ideal if trains could come across from Scotland, stop in Belfast Central station and then continue to Dublin’

 

 

The Variable Gauge Problem

UK railways and nearly all of Europe’s high speed lines use standard gauge tracks and 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

NI Railways use Irish gauge tracks and are diesel powered.

In an ideal world, trains from Glasgow and Carlisle would be electric trains for environmental reasons and I suspect, that diesel wouldn’t be welcomed in any undersea tunnels.

So this would mean one of the following.

  1. Passengers would have to change trains on arriving in or leaving Northern Ireland.
  2. A new electrified standard-gauge line would have to built to Belfast Central station.
  3. A fleet of bi-mode variable-gauge trains would have to be acquired.

Or alternatively, a high-speed electrified standard-gauge line to European standards could be built between the crossing and Dublin, with these characteristics.

  • Twin-track capable of at least 125 mph running.
  • 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • ERTMS signalling
  • European GC loading gauge.
  • An interchange station with Belfast’s local network.
  • A station to load car and truck shuttles as used on the Channel Tunnel.
  • Freight terminals as required.

This would certainly allow the following.

  • Direct electric services between Dublin and Glasgow via Belfast.
  • Direct electric freight services between Ireland and Great Britain.
  • Sleeper services between London and Ireland

After HS2 opens to Crewe in 2027, the following services would be possible, without changing trains.

  • Euston to Belfast in under four hours.
  • Euston to Dublin in under five hours.
  • A faster and more frequent service between the two parts of Ireland.

Addition of electrified branches to other important cities would be possible in the future.

So How Does It Solve The Irish Problem?

It would need a lot of development to truly be acceptable to the EU and the UK and the Irish governments!

But for a start a fixed rail link must improve the economies of the island of Ireland.

This in itself would surely mean that the two governments would work more together for their common good.

I also believe that it would be easier to develop an electronic border, if most of the freight ran between the two islands on rail.

Conclusion

I think we should develop the rail link, even if at the last minute, Brexit gets abandoned.

 

 

 

 

 

November 14, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Parallel Park

This video has become a YouTube hit.

April 29, 2013 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Liverpool, Glasgow And Belfast

These three cities in the UK have for centuries had their troubles between Catholics and Protestants.

I grew up in London, which before the Second World War wasn’t without its religious troubles.  But that generally involved anti-Semitism and those on the far right.  My father was a staunch anti-fascist and claimed he was at the Battle of Cable Street. I suspect he was, and I know he used to write Cockney poetry about the war.  Sadly none has srvived although, I can remember a few phrases.

He didn’t like Catholics because of the Pope’s support for Hitler in the War and my mother being of a Huguenot line didn’t like them either. But it was nothing more than the odd barbed comment, when say a new Pope was elected. I don’t think either of my parents ever saw the inside of a church except for the odd wedding.

This lack of religion, probably helped to push me towards being agnostic and of course now, I’m someone, who doesn’t believe in any religion. But that is not to say, I don’t follow the humanist principles of most of the major religions.

Going to Liverpool in the early 1960s, was the first time, I really came across religion in tooth and claw. With the massive Anglican Cathedral and the new Roman Catholic one under construction, I couldn’t avoid the fact, that I was in a city that took its religion seriously. In those days, there were parades by both Catholics and Orangemen. But any trouble had dropped off in the previous few years.  Was it because the people of Liverpool developed healthy interests in music and football? But other factors were also at work inside the Anglican and Catholic churches. Although this pre-dates the partnership between Archbishop Derek Worlock and the Bishop David Sheppard, I think in the 1960s, the people of Liverpool thought they’d had enough of religious rivalries, that got out of hand.

It was then that I met C’s friend, Maureen, who was the daughter of a Presbyterian Minister and missionary from Belfast. Her tales of her home city painted a very different picture of life in Northern Ireland.

It was at that time too, that I had my first experience of Scotland, when I went to Glasgow to see Spurs play against Celtic in the Glasgow Cup. It was the first time, I saw serious football violence, as a Rangers supporter appeared in the non-segregated crowd and was promptly thumped by most of the Celtic fans around me. It’s not to say there wasn’t violence in England at the time, but in matches at Portman Road, White Hart Lane, Anfield and Goodison Park, I’d never experienced any at first hand.

Over the years, I’ve visited Belfast a few times and been rather horrified at all of the flags and religious symbols.  I once went into Shorts factory in Belfast and couldn’t believe the bigoted displays I saw. If I were to put up similar posters and flags on my house attacking any religion, I’d be arrested.

In Glasgow it’s not so open, but read any forum about Rangers and Celtic and you’ll find language you never find on similar forums involving say Spurs and Arsenal or Liverpool and Everton.

I go to Liverpool regularly and even went to see the Olympic torch in the city, where the Archbishop enjoyed the parade with everybody else.

So how come Liverpool has come to terms with its religious divides and in Belfast and to a certain extent, Glasgow, they seem to be getting worse?

December 11, 2012 Posted by | News, Sport, World | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Titantic Waste of Money

There seems to be so much fuss about a ship, the Titanic, which had the most disastrous maiden voyage in history.

We’ve now got the original film being rereleased in 3D, which I will not be seeing.

And how much of my tax money went to produce the morbid exhibition in Belfast.

Remember that Titanic was one of three sister ships in the Olympic Class.  Only one lived long enough to be scrapped, but the third, the Britannic hit a mine and sunk in World War 1.

All this is well-documented in the Liverpool Maritime Museum. Currently, they are holding an exhibition called Titanic and Liverpool: the untold story.

I know where I would prefer to spend an afternoon.

March 30, 2012 Posted by | News, Travel | , , | Leave a comment