The Anonymous Widower

Will Brexit Result In A Secure Irish Border?

I have been to Ireland many times and also have had several good friends from Southern Ireland.

One tale I heard was from a respectable farmer, was about how during the Second World War he helped his father smuggle food into the North. As he said, “We couldn’t let fellow Irishmen starve!”

It is tales like this, that have always made me believe that Ireland may not politically be one country, but economically and personally, it is a closer relationship.

I also remember tales from a couple of decades ago, where because of different prices across the border, people would shop or trade, where there was a financial advantage.

I’ve actually never driven across the Irish border, as I’ve only been to both countries in the same trip once and I crossed the border by train.

But as with the borders between Wales and England or Scotland and England, I suspect only the locals know on which side they are standing.

One of the main reasons many voted for Brexit was to keep out immigrants.

What is to stop would-be immigrants to the UK, after Brexit going to Ireland and then being smuggled across the porous border, just as food was in the Second World War?

Surely, the only way to stop the smuggling of immigrants is a secure border!

 

October 5, 2018 Posted by | World | , , | 1 Comment

Thoughts On The Lateness Of Crossrail

This article on the BBC is entitled Crossrail Delay: New London Line Will Open In Autumn 2019.

This is the first paragraph.

London’s £15bn Crossrail project is to open nine months after its scheduled launch to allow more time for testing.

I spent most of my working life, writing software for the planning and costing of large projects and despite never having done any serious project management in anger, I have talked to many who have, both in the UK and around the world.

So what are my thoughts?

Crossrail Is A Highly-Complex Project

The project involves the following.

  • A 21 km double-track tunnel under London.
  • New Class 345 trains
  • Four different signalling systems.
  • Rebuilt stations at West Drayton, Hayes & Harlington, Southall, West Ealing, Ealing Broadway. Acton Main Line, Forest Gate, Manor Park, Ilford
  • Refurbished stations at Hanwell, Maryland, Seven Kings, Goodmayes, Chadwell Heath, Romford, Gidea Park, Harold Wood, Brentford and Shenfield.
  • Major interchanges with existing stations at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farrington, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel and Stratford.
  • New stations at Custom House, Canary Whar, Woolwich and Abbey Wood.

Some parts are easy, but a lot are very difficult.

A Shortage Of Specialist Workers

I believe that certain factors could be reducing the pool of workers available to Crossrail.

Less workers than needed would obviously slow the project.

Having to pay more than budgeted to attract or keep workers will also raise costs.

My thoughts on what is causing a possible shortage of specialist workers follow.

Crossrail-Related Development

If you own a site or a building, near to one of Crossrail’s stations, then your property will substantially increase in value, when the line opens.

Walk past any of the Crossrail stations in Central London and some further out and you will see towers sprouting around the station entrance like crows around a road-kill.

Developers know how to cash-in on the best thing that has happened to them since the Nazis flattened acres of Central London.

New sites are also being created over several Crossrail stations including Moorgate, Farringdon (2 sites), Tottenham Court Road (2 sites), Bond Street (2 sites) and Paddington.

But do all these extensive developments, mean that there are not enough sub-contractors, specialist suppliers, electricians, chippies, air-conditioning engineers, plumbers and other trades to do all the work available in London?

I also suspect a developer, building an office block to the world’s highest standard could pay better and faster, than a Crossrail supplier under pressure.

Underground Working

Working underground or in mining is dangerous.

In the 1960s, women were totally banned from working below the surface.

It must have been around 1970, when I met one of ICI’s archivists; Janet Gornall, who a few years previously had organised storage of their masses of historical documents, in the company salt mine at Winsford. The mine is still used for document storage, by a company called Deepstore.

Health & Safety found out that Janet would be supervising and indexing the storage underground, so that if any document was required, they could be easily retrieved. This caused them to give the scheme a big thumbs down.

Questions were even asked in the House of Commons, but nothing would change Health & Safety’s view

In the end a simple solution was found..

As the boxes came up from London they were piled up in a large building on the surface, in the position Janet wanted them underground.

The pile of boxes was then moved underground and stacked in exactly the same way.

Nowadays, anybody can work underground, but they must have training and be certified for such work.

Crossrail thought the number of certified underground workers might not be enough, so they set up the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy (TUCA) at Ilford. This article on the Crossrail web site is entitled  A Legacy To The Construction Industry.

Some points about TUCA.

  • It is now part of Transport for London.
  • It was funded by Crossrail and the Skills Funding Agency.
  • TUCA is Europe’s only specialist soft-ground tunnelling training facility.

I wrote about TUCA in Open House – TUCA, after a visit in 2012.

I was told on my visit, that the Swiss have a similar facility for rock tunnelling and that there were plans for both academies to work together.

Trainees from all over the world would get training in an exotic Swiss mountain and then go on to enjoy the wonders of Ilford.

But at least they’ll be safe workers for all types of tunnelling.

I do wonder if some of the Crossrail delays has been caused by a lack of properly trained underground workers, as now the tunnelling is completed, many have moved on to the next project.

Thames Tideway Scheme

The Thames Tideway Scheme is a £4billion scheme to build a massive sewer under the Thames to clean up the river.

Many Crossrail engineers, tunnellers and workers are now working on the new scheme.

Brexit

Stuttgart 21 is one of numerous mega-projects in Europe.

Many of the workers on Crossrail were originally from Europe and now with the uncertainties of Brexit, some must be moving nearer home,to work on these large European projects.

Well-Paid Jobs In Sunnier Climes

Don’t underestimate, the effect of the Beast From The East last winter.

Skilled personnel have always gone to places like the Middle East to earn a good crust.

With Crossrail under pressure, how many of these key workers have gone to these places for the money?

Conclusion

I wouldn’t be surprised to find that a shortage of specialist workers is blamed for the delays.

In the BBC article, there is this quote

We are working around the clock with our supply chain and Transport for London to complete and commission the Elizabeth line.

Fairly bland, but does the supply chain include specialist suppliers and workers, which are under severe pressure from other projects to perform various works?

It’s probably true that there is only a finite pool of these companies, tradesmen and workers and at least some of the best will have been lured away.

Station Problems

In this article in the Architects Journal, which is entitled Crossrail Delayed Until Autumn 2019, this is said.

Crossrail then revealed in February that it had overspent its budget for the year to 30 March 2018 by £190 million.

At the time TfL said works at Whitechapel station, designed by BDP, and Farringdon station, designed by AHR, were completed later than expected, and there were delays to work at Weston Williamson’s Woolwich station and John McAslan + Partners’ Bond Street station.

I’ll look at Whitechapel station as an example.

You don’t need to be an expert to figure out that Whitechapel station is running late.

Look at all the blue hoardings.

  • I know this only shows what is visible to the public.
  • The Crossrail platforms deep underground could be ready.
  • The main entrance to the station is still shrouded in plastic.
  • The escalators to get down to Crossrail, will be between the two District/Metropolitan Line platforms.

This Google Map shows the area of Whitechapel station.

Note how the site is hemmed in, by important buildings including a Sainsburys supermarket and Swanlea School.

See An Innovative Use Of The School Holidays, for an insight about how the builders of the station coped with the lack of space.

I also feel that Whitechapel is an incredibly complex station to build.

  • It is crossed by two important railways; the District/Metropolitan Line and the East London Line.
  • Innovative techniques from the coal mining industry had to be used to dig the escalator tunnel.
  • Whitechapel will be the station, where passengers change between the two Eastern branches.

I do wonder, whether a different design would have been easier to build.

For instance, could Sainsburys have been paid to shut their superstore and that site used to build the station?

But Crossrail has chosen a design and now they must build it.

The New Class 345 Trains

The new Class 345 trains for Crossrail are an almost totally new design called Aventra by Bombardier, that I believe has been specifically created to make the operation of Crossrail as efficient as possible.

The trains must have something about them, as since launch they have attracted five more substantial orders, from five different operators.

The introduction into service of the Class 345 trains,has been reasonably straightforward, but not without some issues.

But I do question, the launching of Aventra trains solely on a line as complex as Crossrail.

Would it have been easier to have built the Class 710 trains first and thoroughly debugged them on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

But then that electrification was late.

Four Types Of Signalling

Crossrail needs trains to have four different types of signalling.

CBTC – Communications-Based Train Control

ETCS – European Train Control System

AWS – Automatic Warning System

TPWS – Train Protection & Warning System

I know that as Crossrail runs on other lines with these signalling and going to a single system like ETCS would need to the changing of signalling systems on much of the railways in the South-East and the trains that use them.

It appears that there are problems for the trains running into Heathrow and one of the reasons for the Crossrail delayed opening, is to allow more time to test the trains and the signalling.

From my experience of writing complex software systems, where my software needed to interface with two operating systems, I know that you can never put too much time into testing complex systems.

So where is the dedicated test track, where trains can simulate the signalling of Crossrail routes, day in and day out?

I believe that not enough time and money was allocated to test this complex system.

Crossrail has found out the hard way.

Europe Has A Lack Of Train Test Tracks

A lot of European nations are ordering new trains and the UK is probably ordering more than most.

Reading the railway stories on the Internet, there are lots of stories about trains being brought into service late. And not just in the UK, but in Germany and Italy for example.

Crossrail identified that there was a need for a training academy for underground workers.

Did anybody do the calculations to make sure, there was enough test tracks for all the trains being built in Europe?

However, it does look as though Wales is coming to rescue Europe’s train makers, as I describe in £100m Rail Test Complex Plans For Neath Valley.

I suspect Crossrail wish this project had been completed a couple of years ago.

A Shortage Of Resources

For successful completion of projects on time and on budget, there must be enough resources.

I believe that, when the lateness and overspend on Crossrail is analysed, shortage of resources will be blamed.

  • Shortage of people and suppliers, that has not been helped by other projects taking advantage of new opportunities offered by Crossrail.
  • Shortage of space for work-sites at stations.
  • Shortage of places to fully test trains and signalling.

I suspect that the last will be the most serious.

Hugo Rifkind On A Late Crossrail

In an excellent article in today’s copy of The Times entitled Leavers Have A Cheek Trying To Block HS2, Hugo Rifkind says this about Crossrail.

You think we’ll remember, 50 years from now. that Crossrail took six months longer than expected?

Rubbish. London will rest on it like a spine and boggle that we ever managed without.

I think Rifkind is right.

Will Hutton

Will Hutton has written this article in the Guardian, which is entitled Don’t moan about Crossrail. Once Complete, It Will Be A Rare Triumph In Our public Realm.

He says this.

Let’s sing a different tune. Therailway line, more than 60 miles long, linking Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east – adding 10% to London’s commuter rail capacity – and set to carry around 200 million passengers a year, will be a fantastic achievement. Its 13-mile-long tunnels run more than 100ft under the capital’s streets, navigating everything from underground sewers to the deep foundations of skyscrapers with superb engineering aplomb. The longstanding reproach is that Britain can’t do grand projects. Crossrail, now christened the Elizabeth line, is proof that we can.

He then goes on to criticise the structure of the construction project, the salaries paid and the current Government.

But I suspect that in a few yeas time, Hutton, Rifkind and myself could have a quiet pint and say Crossrail got it right.

Current Developments That Will Help Bridge The Delay

It’s not as if, no new transport developments won’t happen in the time before Crossrail eventually opens in Autumn 2019.

Trains Providing More Capacity

These trains will be providing extra capacity.

  • New Class 717 trains will be running on the services to and from Moorgate station.
  • New Class 710 trains will be running on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.
  • New Class 710 trains will be running on the Lea Valley Lines to Cheshunt, Chingford and Enfield Town stations.
  • New Class 710 trains will be running on the Watford DC Line.
  • Cascaded Class 378 trains and new Class 710 trains will be running extra services on the original circular service of the London Overground.
  • More Class 345 trains will be providing all of Crossrail’s services to Heathrow and Shenfield.
  • New Class 720 trains or something similar or older, will be providing four trains per hour (tph) between Stratford and Meridian Water stations.

Note that before the end of 2019, nearly a hundred new trains will be delivered.

New And Rebuilt Stations

There will be some new or rebuilt stations.

  • Acton Main Line
  • Forest Gate
  • Gidea Park
  • Hayes & Harlington
  • Manor Park
  • Maryland
  • Meridian Water
  • Northumberland Park
  • Tottenham Hale
  • West Drayton
  • West Ealing
  • West Hampstead

This list may contain other stations.

Underground Improvements

There will also be Underground improvements.

  • The Central Line Improvements Programme will increase capacity and reliability on the Central Line.
  • The Metropolitan Line is being upgraded with new signalling.
  • Up to ten Underground stations may be made step-free before the end of 2019.

The improvements to the Central and Metropolitan Lines, through Central London will compensate for the delaying of Crossrail’s core tunnel.

A Few Questions

I have to ask questions.

Will The High Meads Loop Be Used?

This would provide an excellent interchange between the following services.

  • Local services to Hertford East and Bishops Stortford stations,  including the new STAR service, along the West Anglia Main Line.
  • Stansted Express and Cambridge services to and from Stratford.
  • Fast Greater Anglia services to Chelmsford, Colchester, Southend and further, along the Great Eastern Main Line.
  • Crossrail services between Liverpool Street and Shenfield.
  • Central Line services.

There is also only a short, but tortuous walk to the Jubilee Line for London Bridge and Waterloo stations and Central London.

Based on the experience of the Wirral Loop under Liverpool, which handles sixteen tph, I believe that the High Meads Loop could handle a substantial number of trains, that instead of using the crowded lines to Liverpool Street station, would use the new uncrowded route from Tottenham Hale to Stratford via Lea Bridge station.

Moving services to Stratford from Liverpool Street would also free up platforms at the major terminus, which could be used to provide extra services on the Great Eastern Main Line.

The extra capacity might also enable the lengthening of the Crossrail platforms at Liverpool Street to be extended, so they could take full-length Class 345 trains.

No new extra infrastructure would be required at Stratford, although in future, a platform to connect the loop to Stratford International station would be nice.

I will be very surprised if the High Meads Loop is not used creatively in the future.

Will Some New Pedestrian Tunnels At Stations Like Liverpool Street And Paddington Be Opened?

I use Moorgate and Liverpool Street stations regularly.

There are blue walls everywhere, behind which the Crossrail infrastructure is hiding.

I do hope Crossrail and Transport for London are looking at the possibilities of using completed infrastructure to create new walking routes in stations to ease congestion.

Conclusion

Crossrail was designed to be opened in four phases over two years.

I am drawn to the position, that because of various resource shortages and the testing of trains, perhaps the project could have been arranged as perhaps a series of smaller projects delivered over a longer period of time.

 

 

 

 

 

September 4, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Right Attitude

Also in the diary in today’s copy of The Times, was this paragraph.

Gina Miller has just published a memoir and tell’s Spear’s magazine that opponents told her publisher that they were organising a mass burning of it.

This does not worry her. “It’s OK, they’ve got to buy the book first.” she says.

Never get angry with someone, who is paying you money, for which you are doing no extra physical or mental work!

August 31, 2018 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Heavyweight Backing Expected For £1.5bn Crossrail Extension

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on New Civil Engineer.

This is the first paragraph.

Government infrastructure tsar Sir John Armitt is this week expected to throw his weight behind a £1.5bn extension to Ebbsfleet.

The article also says.

  • Circumstances have changed greatly since the 2008 Crossrail Act.
  • Canary Wharf Group, who contributed £150million to the building of Canary Wharf station, may be prepared to contribute, as this will give access from their site to Eurostar.
  • The extension could support the construction of 55,000 new homes and 50,000 jobs.

The extension would take ten years to design and construct.

Eurostar

After my forays to and from Europe recently by Eurostar, I feel that a Crossrail link to Ebbsfleet will be heavily used.

  • As more destinations are served by trains from St. Pancras, more passengers will find Ebbsfleet a more convenient station for the Continent.
  • Ebbsfleet will be linked directly to Canary Wharf, the City of London, the West End and Heathrow.
  • Crossrail will give an easy Undergound-free link between Wales and the West Country and Ebbsfleet stations with a single change at Paddington station.
  • When HS2 opens, there will be an easy Underground-free link between the Midlands and the North and Ebbsfleet stations with a single change at Old Oak Common station.
  • St. Pancras only has four platforms with no space to expand, but it could be relatively easy to add capacity at Ebbsfleet.

If I was in charge of designing and building the Crossrail extension, I’d make sure that Eurostar made a contribution, as they will be big winners from the extension.

The City Of London

The extension may be beneficial to the City of London.

  • The extension would add more stations within easy reach of terminal stations in the City.
  • The extension might give an easier route to and from the City.
  • After Brexit, I suspect the institutions of the City will want more good connections to Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt and Paris.

,Perhaps one of the big City companies might like to finance construction and charge a royalty on each rain?

London City Airport

Should the project to build the extension also include building a Crossrail station at London City Airport?

This would mean that passengers between places like Aberdeen, Belfast, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, the Isle of Man and Manchester, and Continental destinations served by train would have a more convenient interchange in London.

Ebbsfleet Valley

Ebbsfleet Valley is a proposed new town of 16,000 homes being built on brownfield land close to Ebbsfleet station.

£300million of government money has been pumped into the project. But according to Wikipedia, there has been criticisms of the project.

London Paramount Entertainment Resort

London Paramount Entertainment Resort is described like this in Wikipedia.

London Paramount Entertainment Resort (commonly referred to as London Paramount) is a proposed theme park for the London Resort in Swanscombe, Kent. The project was announced on 8 October 2012 and it was estimated to open by around 2023.. In June 2017, it was announced that Paramount had pulled out of the project[2]. However, London Resort Company Holdings still insist the project is going ahead.

I’ve never been to a theme park, as I prefer the real thing!

But others will like it!

Conclusion

The beneficiaries of extending Crossrail to Ebbsfleet, include a lot of big players with possibly large financial resources.

I would suspect that some could be persuaded to fund particular parts of the project.

After all, if a housing developer invested say £10 million, in a new station for a development and then found it easier to sell the houses, there comes a point, where they make more profit and house buyers get a much better place to live.

 

June 4, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Eurostar To And From Amsterdam

On Tuesday I took Eurostar to Amsterdam.

The trip took three hours and forty-one minutes with stops at Brussels and Rotterdam.

The Brussels stop allows passengers to leave and join, but Rotterdam only allows passengers to leave.

As the number of passengers grow between London and Amsterdam, could there come a time, when some or all Amsterdam services don’t need to stop at Brussels.

If so, how much time would this save?

Current stops by Eurostar take the following times.

  • Ashford – 9 mins.
  • Calais – 3 mins
  • Ebbsfleet – 6 mins.
  • Lille – 14 minutes

These times have been calculated by looking at similar services that have different stopping patterns.

Note that, Calais and Ebbsfleet are faster as they are stops on the direct route.

So I suspect that if an Amsterdam service could go through Brussels without stopping, something between 9-12 minutes could be saved.

This could bring the journey time between London and Amsterdam closer to three and a half hours.

What would that time do for sales of tickets?

Eurostar Hold A Lot Of Cards

Eurostar are in a very good position on this route.

  • They could run a flagship express service twice a day for those in a hurry.
  • This could be backed up by slightly slower services calling at places from or to where passengers want to go. These would include Ebbsfleet, Ashford and Antwerp.
  • Immigration and security clearance is probably under thirty minutes at the start of the journey and perhaps ten at the end.
  • Immigration and security times will be reduced, as procedures get better.
  • St. Pancras, Rotterdam Centraal and Amsterdam Centraal are all very well-connected stations.
  • Extra services can be added as demand dictates.
  • Eurostar is more diabled-friendly and those in smaller scooters can drive in!
  • They could extend some Brussels services to Amsterdam.
  • I estimate that just under 4,000,000 people live within the North and South Circular Roads and have easy access by public transport to St. Pancras.

They can also create a very intelligent booking computer system, that optimises their services. Budget airlines have been doing this for years.

What About The Airlines?

Note the numbers of passengers who fly.

According to Skyscanner, there are upwards of two hundred flights a day between London and Amsterdam. An Airbus A320 holds 150 passengers, so if there are only a hundred per flight, that is 20,000 passengers per day.

Looking at the 6th of June, Eurostar are running nine trains between London and Brussels. As each new Class 374 train can hold 900 passengers, that is around 8,000 seats per day.

So the airlines have much more capacity than Eurostar and they can add and remove it, easier than Eurostar can?

The Comfort Factor

I haven’t travelled in steerage on the new trains, as I always pay about thirty-forty pounds extra for Premium Economy, so I get the following benefits.

  • A very pleasant gluten-free meal.
  • A much more spacious environment.
  • It’s also rare that I don’t get a window seat.

But if I did use steerage, it would be a more pleasant experience than flying on a budget airline.

I think it’s been about ten years since I flew to a city within a two-hour flight of London, where there was a rail alternative.

I also tend to come home by rail, where I often get a connection to Brussels or Paris to catch a late Eurostar to London.

Comparing London-Amsterdam With London-Edinburgh

Both routes take about four hours by train, with the Dutch route slightly quicker.

Generally, trains operate between London and Edinburgh half-hourly for much of the day, whereas Eurostar only runs twice a day.

Amsterdam/Rotterdam/Schipol Airport is surely a much bigger market in terms of possible passengers, than the Edinburgh catchment area.

I think we’ll see the astute Dutch, using Eurostar as a marketing tool to attract more passengers to the Netherlands and London’s next airport at Schipol.

Especially, as the British seem very happy with a four-hour train ride in comfort.

Eurostar Will Grow Between London And Amsterdam

For these and other rambling reasons, I think that Eurostar to Amsterdam will grow to be a successful route.

The one thing they must do, is to make it possible to come back to London, without having to clear immigration and security in Brussels.

But Eurostar know that!

Amsterdam Is Just The Hors D’Oeuvre!

Once Eurostar and the Dutch get the route between London and the Netherlands working smoothly, I don’t think it will be long before other routes are inaugurated.

Eurostar have said these could be.

  • Bordeaux
  • Cologne and Frankfurt
  • Geneva

The key will be getting the immigration and security smooth.

I think it will continue to improve, as it seems to do, every time I travel.

Remember, the Belgians, Dutch, French, Germans and Swiss will want it to be smooth, as they will want to market their delights to a whole new market, so suspect a lot of co-operation, despite the decision of Brexit.

But, I think that a limit on a journey time of four or five hours would cut out a lot of other destinations.

Although many of the destinations like Brussels, Cologne, Frankfurt, Geneva and Paris will be places to have an enjoyable day or two before taking another train ride further afield.

The 15:00 From Amsterdam Centraal To Berlin

This train that leaves Amsterdam Centraal just under two hours after the Eurostar arrives and can take you all the way to Berlin, arriving at 21:22.

But this train with a change at Osnabruck, gives you a stopping-off point to Bremen, Hamburg and the Northern part of Germany.

I first came across Osnabruck, when I was left there without a train by Deutsche Bahn, as I wrote about in From Hamburg To Osnabruck By Train.

But I found a delightful hotel on the station forecourt, called the Advena Hotel Hohenzollern.

Trip Advisor give it four out of five and currently say deals are available at under seventy pounds a night.

Osnabruck is not a tourist town, but it sits where the North-South and East-West rail routes cross.

Conclusion

As the network develops, I believe that a whole new form of tourism will take advantage.

 

 

 

May 17, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ulster Says No!

Twas ever thus! This article on Wikipedia, is about the protests against the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement between Margaret Thatcher and Garret FitzGerald.

Let’s face it! Many of the views of the Democratic Unionist Party are very alien to this left-wing Tory voter.

For a start, I have known, three women in the UK, who might have decided to have an abortion for three different reasons. All of their reasons would have been illegal in Northern Ireland, but perfectly legal in the rest of the UK and most of Europe.

In this and several other areas, such as same-sex marriage, Northern Ireland must be brought in line with the rest of the UK.

 

December 5, 2017 Posted by | World | , , , | 5 Comments

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 | , , , , | 4 Comments

Brexit ‘no deal’ Means Britons Will Be Barred From Taking Pets To The Continent, Michel Barnier warns

The title of this post, is the same as this article in the Telegraph.

Doesn’t this say a lot about the vindictiveness, stubbornness and downright stupidity of those involved in the Brexit negotiations?

November 13, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | 5 Comments

A New UnBorised, Corbynless, Farage-frei British Generation Can Then Step Yo The Plate

The title of this post is the last sentence in an article in today’s Times by David Aaronovitch, which is entitled Macron Offers Us A Way Out Of Brexit Mess.

It is well-worth a read.

By step up to the plate, he means rethink their relationship with a reformed Europe.

September 28, 2017 Posted by | World | | Leave a comment

Brexit Is The Cancer Gnawing Away At The Conservative Party

Well said by Lord Hesseltine in a very interesting interview with John Pienaar on BBC Radio 5.

He also said Brexit might not happen!

He didn’t pull any punches!

June 11, 2017 Posted by | World | , | 3 Comments