The Anonymous Widower

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 | , , , , | 2 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

Lots Of Process And No Substance!

The title of this post has just been used by Gus O’Donnell on BBC1 to describe how the Brexit negotiations will progress.

I think that the election has guaranteed we’ll get a Hard Brexit under World Trade Organisation rules.

June 9, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Where Is The Next Tory Leader?

When Theresa May resigns, as she surely will, if not today, in the next few days, where is the safe pair of hands to sort out the mess that the Brexit Referendum has dumped the country?

  • Kenneth Clarke and others of his generation are too old and too pro-Remain.
  • Boris Johnson is too volatile.
  • Ruth Davidson is not in Parliament.

I suspect many others will pass on the poisoned chalice.

John Major was the surprise to follow Margaret Thatcher and went on to win an election. Is there another like him? I don’t think so!

June 9, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | 1 Comment

I Said It Was A Strange Election!

In A Strange Election, I said it was just that. But then, a political journalist friend said to me, that the posters told a different tale South of London, as they did in the capital, before the Brexit Referendum.

Theresa May made the same mistake as Harold Wilson in 1970 and Ted Heath in 1974, when they both called an early election and ended up covered in egg.

She fought a terrible election and certainly made major mistakes.

  • In a short campaign, you must get your manifesto right and this allowed the sound-bite of Dementia Tax to take hold.
  • The manifesto had little for the average Tory voter.
  • She ignored Newton’s Third Law!
  • Her circle of advisers was too small and close!
  • She ignored the lessons of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
  • She came over as cold, with all the charisma of a dead fish.
  • There was no infrastructure policy except vague statements in the manifesto.
  • There wasn’t much to attract those who voted Brexit, except a stop to immigration.
  • Where was the pit-bull to take Corbyn’s fantasy tax and spend policies apart?
  • Only Boris Johnson delivered any passion!

But most importantly, where do the Tories stand on Brexit?

The Tories are pfaffing about, like a Personnel Manager, who has just been sent by the Chairman to close a factory they know nothing about, in a strange area of the country.

The Tories were all planning to Remain in the EU, even if they were against it and the surprise result in the Brexit Referendum left the Party up the creek without a paddle.

June 9, 2017 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment