The Anonymous Widower

High-Speed Low-Carbon Transport Between Great Britain And Ireland

Consider.

  • According to Statista, there were 13,160,000 passengers between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic in 2019.
  • In 2019, Dublin Airport handled 32,907,673 passengers.
  • The six busiest routes from Dublin were Heathrow, Stansted, Amsterdam, Manchester, Birmingham and Stansted.
  • In 2018, Belfast International Airport handled 6,269,025 passengers.
  • The four busiest routes from Belfast International Airport were Stansted, Gatwick. Liverpool and Manchester, with the busiest route to Europe to Alicante.
  • In 2018, Belfast City Airport handled 2,445,529 passengers.
  • The four busiest routes from Belfast City Airport were Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham and London City.

Note.

  1. The busiest routes at each airport are shown in descending order.
  2. There is a lot of air passengers between the two islands.
  3. Much of the traffic is geared towards London’s four main airports.
  4. Manchester and Liverpool get their fair share.

Decarbonisation of the air routes between the two islands will not be a trivial operation.

But technology is on the side of decarbonisation.

Class 805 Trains

Avanti West Coast have ordered thirteen bi-mode Class 805 trains, which will replace the diesel Class 221 trains currently working between London Euston and Holyhead.

  • They will run at 125 mph between Euston and Crewe using electric power.
  • If full in-cab digital signalling were to be installed on the electrified portion of the route, they may be able to run at 140 mph in places under the wires.
  • They will use diesel power on the North Wales Coast Line to reach Holyhead.
  • According to an article in Modern Railways, the Class 805 trains could be fitted with batteries.

I wouldn’t be surprised that when they are delivered, they are a version of the Hitachi’s Intercity Tri-Mode  Battery Train, the specification of which is shown in this Hitachi infographic.

Note.

  1. I suspect that the batteries will be used to handle regenerative braking on lines without electrification, which will save diesel fuel and carbon emissions.
  2. The trains accelerate faster, than those they replace.
  3. The claimed fuel and carbon saving is twenty percent.

It is intended that these trains will be introduced next year.

I believe that, these trains will speed up services between London Euston and Holyhead.

  • Currently, services take just over three-and-a-half hours.
  • There should be time savings on the electrification between London Euston and Crewe.
  • The operating speed on the North Wales Coast Line is 90 mph. This might be increased in sections.
  • Some extra electrification could be added, between say Crewe and Chester and possibly through Llandudno Junction.
  • I estimate that on the full journey, the trains could reduce emissions by up to sixty percent compared to the current diesel trains.

I think that a time of three hours could be achievable with the Class 805 trains.

New trains and a three hour journey time should attract more passengers to the route.

Holyhead

In Holyhead Hydrogen Hub Planned For Wales, I wrote about how the Port of Holyhead was becoming a hydrogen hub, in common with several other ports around the UK including Felixstowe, Harwich, Liverpool and Portsmouth.

Holyhead and the others could host zero-carbon hydrogen-powered ferries.

But this extract from the Wikipedia hints at work needed to be done to create a fast interchange  between trains and ferries.

There is access to the port via a building shared with Holyhead railway station, which is served by the North Wales Coast Line to Chester and London Euston. The walk between trains and ferry check in is less than two minutes, but longer from the remote platform 1, used by Avanti West Coast services.

This Google Map shows the Port of Holyhead.

I think there is a lot of potential to create an excellent interchange.

HSC Francisco

I am using the high-speed craft Francisco as an example of the way these ships are progressing.

  • Power comes from two gas-turbine engines, that run on liquified natural gas.
  • It can carry 1024 passengers and 150 cars.
  • It has a top speed of 58 knots or 67 mph. Not bad for a ship with a tonnage of over 7000.

This ship is in service between Buenos Aires and Montevideo.

Note.

  1. A craft like this could be designed to run on zero-carbon  liquid hydrogen or liquid ammonia.
  2. A high speed craft already runs between Dublin and Holyhead taking one hour and forty-nine minutes for the sixty-seven miles.

Other routes for a specially designed high speed craft might be.

  • Barrow and Belfast – 113 miles
  • Heysham and Belfast – 127 miles
  • Holyhead and Belfast – 103 miles
  • Liverpool and Belfast – 145 miles
  • Stranraer and Larne – 31 miles

Belfast looks a bit far from England, but Holyhead and Belfast could be a possibility.

London And Dublin Via Holyhead

I believe this route is definitely a possibility.

  • In a few years, with a few improvements on the route, I suspect that London Euston and Holyhead could be fairly close to three hours.
  • With faster bi-mode trains, Manchester Airport and Holyhead would be under three hours.
  • I would estimate, that a high speed craft built for the route could be under two hours between Holyhead and Dublin.

It certainly looks like London Euston and Dublin and Manchester Airport and Dublin would be under five hours.

In A Glimpse Of 2035, I imagined what it would be like to be on the first train between London and Dublin via the proposed fixed link between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

  • I felt that five-and-a-half hours was achievable for that journey.
  • The journey would have used High Speed Two to Wigan North Western.
  • I also stated that with improvements, London and Belfast could be three hours and Dublin would be an hour more.

So five hours between London Euston and Dublin using current technology without massive improvements and new lines could be small change well spent.

London And Belfast Via Holyhead

At 103 miles the ferry leg may be too long for even the fastest of the high speed craft, but if say the craft could do Holyhead and Belfast in two-and-a-half hours, it might just be a viable route.

  • It might also be possible to run the ferries to a harbour like Warrenpoint, which would be eighty-six miles.
  • An estimate based on the current high speed craft to Dublin, indicates a time of around two hours and twenty minutes.

It could be viable, if there was a fast connection between Warrenpoint and Belfast.

Conclusion

Once the new trains are running between London Euston and Holyhead, I would expect that an Irish entrepreneur will be looking to develop a fast train and ferry service between England and Wales, and the island of Ireland.

It could be sold, as the Greenest Way To Ireland.

Class 807 Trains

Avanti West Coast have ordered ten electric Class 807 trains, which will replace some of the diesel Class 221 trains.

  • They will run at 125 mph between Euston and Liverpool on the fully-electrified route.
  • If full in-cab digital signalling were to be installed on the route, they may be able to run at 140 mph in places.
  • These trains appear to be the first of the second generation of Hitachi trains and they seem to be built for speed and a sparking performance,
  • These trains will run at a frequency of two trains per hour (tph) between London and Liverpool Lime Street.
  • Alternate trains will stop at Liverpool South Parkway station.

In Will Avanti West Coast’s New Trains Be Able To Achieve London Euston and Liverpool Lime Street In Two Hours?, I came to the conclusion, that a two-hour journey time was possible, when the new Class 807 trains have entered service.

London And Belfast Via Liverpool And A Ferry

Consider.

  • An hour on the train to and from London will be saved compared to Holyhead.
  • The ferry terminal is in Birkenhead on the other side of the Mersey and change between Lime Street station and the ferry could take much longer than at Holyhead.
  • Birkenhead and Belfast is twice the distance of Holyhead and Dublin, so even a high speed craft would take three hours.

This Google Map shows the Ferry Terminal and the Birkenhead waterfront.

Note.

  1. The Ferry Terminal is indicated by the red arrow at the top of the map.
  2. There are rows of trucks waiting for the ferries.
  3. In the South East corner of the map, the terminal of the Mersey Ferry sticks out into the River
  4. Hamilton Square station is in-line with the Mersey Ferry at the bottom of the map and indicated with the usual red symbol.
  5. There is a courtesy bus from Hamilton Square station to the Ferry Terminal for Ireland.

There is a fourteen tph service between Hamilton Square and Liverpool Lime Street station.

This route may be possible, but the interchange could be slow and the ferry leg is challenging.

I don’t think the route would be viable unless a much faster ferry is developed. Does the military have some high speed craft under development?

Conclusion

London and Belfast via Liverpool and a ferry is probably a trip for enthusiasts or those needing to spend a day in Liverpool en route.

Other Ferry Routes

There are other ferry routes.

Heysham And Barrow-in-Furness

,These two ports might be possible, but neither has a good rail connection to London and the South of England.

They are both rail connected, but not to the standard of the connections at Holyhead and Liverpool.

Cairnryan

The Cairnryan route could probably be improved to be an excellent low-carbon route to Glasgow and Central Scotland.

Low-Carbon Flight Between The Islands Of Great Britain And Ireland

I think we’ll gradually see a progression to zero-carbon flight over the next few years.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Obviously zero-carbon would be better, but until zero-carbon aircraft are developed, there is always sustainable aviation fuel.

This can be produced from various carbon sources like biowaste or even household rubbish and disposable nappies.

British Airways are involved in a project called Altalto.

  • Altalto are building a plant at Immingham to turn household rubbish into sustainable aviation fuel.
  • This fuel can be used in jet airliners with very little modification of the aircraft.

I wrote about Altalto in Grant Shapps Announcement On Friday.

Smaller Low-Carbon Airliners

The first low- and zero-carbon airliners to be developed will be smaller with less range, than Boeing 737s and Airbus A 320s. These three are examples of three under development.

I feel that a nineteen seater aircraft with a range of 500 miles will be the first specially designed low- or zero-carbon airliner to be developed.

I believe these aircraft will offer advantages.

  • Some routes will only need refuelling at one end.
  • Lower noise and pollution.
  • Some will have the ability to work from short runways.
  • Some will be hybrid electric running on sustainable aviation fuel.

They may enable passenger services to some smaller airports.

Air Routes Between The Islands Of Great Britain And Ireland

These are distances from Belfast City Airport.

  • Aberdeen – 228 miles
  • Amsterdam – 557 miles
  • Birmingham – 226 miles
  • Blackpool – 128 miles
  • Cardiff – 246 miles
  • Edinburgh – 135 miles
  • Gatwick – 337 miles
  • Glasgow – 103 miles
  • Heathrow – 312 miles
  • Jersey – 406 miles
  • Kirkwall – 320 miles
  • Leeds – 177 miles
  • Liverpool – 151 miles
  • London City – 326 miles
  • Manchester – 170 miles
  • Newcastle – 168 miles
  • Southampton – 315 miles
  • Southend – 344 miles
  • Stansted – 292 miles
  • Sumburgh – 401 miles

Note.

  1. Some airports on this list do not currently have flights from Belfast City Airport.
  2. I have included Amsterdam for comparison.
  3. Distances to Belfast International Airport, which is a few miles to the West of Belfast City Airport are within a few miles of these distances.

It would appear that much of Great Britain is within 500 miles of Belfast City Airport.

These are distances from Dublin Airport.

  • Aberdeen – 305 miles
  • Amsterdam – 465 miles
  • Birmingham – 199 miles
  • Blackpool – 133 miles
  • Cardiff – 185 miles
  • Edinburgh – 208 miles
  • Gatwick – 300 miles
  • Heathrow – 278 miles
  • Jersey – 339 miles
  • Kirkwall – 402 miles
  • Leeds – 190 miles
  • Liverpool – 140 miles
  • London City – 296 miles
  • Manchester – 163 miles
  • Newcastle – 214 miles
  • Southampton – 268 miles
  • Southend – 319 miles
  • Stansted – 315 miles
  • Sumburgh – 483 miles

Note.

  1. Some airports on this list do not currently have flights from Dublin Airport.
  2. I have included Amsterdam for comparison.

It would appear that much of Great Britain is within 500 miles of Dublin Airport.

I will add a few long routes, that someone  might want to fly.

  • Cork and Aberdeen – 447 miles
  • Derry and Manston – 435 miles
  • Manston and Glasgow – 392 miles
  • Newquay and Aberdeen – 480 miles
  • Norwich and Stornaway – 486 miles.

I doubt there are many possible air services in the UK and Ireland that are longer than 500 miles.

I have a few general thoughts about low- and zero-carbon air services in and around the islands of Great Britain and Ireland.

  • The likely five hundred mile range of the first generation of low- and zero-carbon airliners fits the size of the these islands well.
  • These aircraft seem to have a cruising speed of between 200 and 250 mph, so flight times will not be unduly long.
  • Airports would need to have extra facilities to refuel or recharge these airliners.
  • Because of their size, there will need to be more flights on busy routes.
  • Routes which are less heavily used may well be developed, as low- or zero-carbon could be good for marketing the route.

I suspect they could be ideal for the development of new routes and even new eco-friendly airports.

Conclusion

I have come to the conclusion, that smaller low- or zero-carbon are a good fit for the islands of Great Britain and Ireland.

But then Flybe and Loganair have shown that you can make money flying smaller planes around these islands with the right planes, airports, strategy and management.

Hydrogen-Powered Planes From Airbus

Hydrogen-powered zero-carbon aircraft could be the future and Airbus have put down a marker as to the way they are thinking.

Airbus have proposed three different ZEROe designs, which are shown in this infographic.

The turboprop and the turbofan will be the type of designs, that could be used around Great Britain and Ireland.

The ZEROe Turboprop

This is Airbus’s summary of the design for the ZEROe Turboprop.

Two hybrid hydrogen turboprop engines, which drive the six bladed propellers, provide thrust. The liquid hydrogen storage and distribution system is located behind the rear pressure bulkhead.

This screen capture taken from the video, shows the plane.

It certainly is a layout that has been used successfully, by many conventionally-powered aircraft in the past. The De Havilland Canada Dash 8 and ATR 72 are still in production.

I don’t think the turboprop engines, that run on hydrogen will be a problem.

If you look at the Lockheed-Martin C 130J Super Hercules, you will see it is powered by four Rolls-Royce AE 2100D3 turboprop engines, that drive 6-bladed Dowty R391 composite constant-speed fully-feathering reversible-pitch propellers.

These Rolls-Royce engines are a development of an Allison design, but they also form the heart of Rolls-Royce’s 2.5 MW Generator, that I wrote about in Our Sustainability Journey. The generator was developed for use in Airbus’s electric flight research program.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find the following.

  • , The propulsion system for this aircraft is under test with hydrogen at Derby and Toulouse.
  • Dowty are testing propellers suitable for the aircraft.
  • Serious research is ongoing to store enough liquid hydrogen in a small tank that fits the design.

Why develop something new, when Rolls-Royce, Dowty and Lockheed have done all the basic design and testing?

This screen capture taken from the video, shows the front view of the plane.

From clues in the picture, I estimate that the fuselage diameter is around four metres. Which is not surprising, as the Airbus A320 has a height of 4.14 metres and a with of 3.95 metres. But it’s certainly larger than the fuselage of an ATR-72.

So is the ZEROe Turboprop based on a shortened Airbus A 320 fuselage?

  • The ATR 72 has a capacity of 70 passengers.
  • The ZEROe Turboprop has a capacity of less than a hundred passengers.
  • An Airbus A320 has six-abreast seating.
  • Could the ZEROe Turboprop have sixteen rows of seats, as there are sixteen windows in front of the wing?
  • With the seat pitch of an Airbus A 320, which is 81 centimetres, this means just under thirteen metres for the passengers.
  • There could be space for a sizeable hydrogen tank in the rear part of the fuselage.
  • The plane might even be able to use the latest A 320 cockpit.

It looks to me, that Airbus have designed a larger ATR 72 based on an A 320 fuselage.

I don’t feel there are any great technical challenges in building this aircraft.

  • The engines appear to be conventional and could even have been more-or-less fully developed.
  • The fuselage could be a development of an existing design.
  • The wings and tail-plane are not large and given the company’s experience with large composite structures, they shouldn’t be too challenging.
  • The hydrogen storage and distributing system will have to be designed, but as hydrogen is being used in increasing numbers of applications, I doubt the expertise will be difficult to find.
  • The avionics and other important systems could probably be borrowed from other Airbus products.

Given that the much larger and more complicated Airbus A380 was launched in 2000 and first flew in 2005, I think that a prototype of this aircraft could fly around the middle of this decade.

It may seem small at less than a hundred seats, but it does have a range of greater than a 1000 nautical miles or 1150 miles.

Consider.

  • It compares closely in passenger capacity, speed and range, with the De Havilland Canada Dash 8/400 and the ATR 72/600.
  • The ATR 72 is part-produced by Airbus.
  • The aircraft is forty percent slower than an Airbus A 320.
  • It looks like it could be designed to have a Short-Takeoff-And Landing (STOL) capability.

I can see the aircraft replacing Dash 8s, ATR 72s and similar aircraft all over the world. There are between 2000 and 3000 operational airliners in this segment.

The ZEROe Turbofan

This is Airbus’s summary of the design.

Two hybrid hydrogen turbofan engines provide thrust. The liquid hydrogen storage and distribution system is located behind the rear pressure bulkhead.

This screen capture taken from the video, shows the plane.

ZEROeTurbofan

This screen capture taken from the video, shows the front view of the plane.

The aircraft doesn’t look very different different to an Airbus A320 and appears to be fairly conventional. It does appear to have the characteristic tall winglets of the A 320 neo.

I don’t think the turbofan engines, that run on hydrogen will be a problem.

These could be standard turbofan engines modified to run on hydrogen, fuelled from a liquid hydrogen tank behind the rear pressure bulkhead of the fuselage.

If you want to learn more about gas turbine engines and hydrogen, read this article on the General Electric web site, which is entitled The Hydrogen Generation: These Gas Turbines Can Run On The Most Abundant Element In the Universe,

These are my thoughts of the marketing objectives of the ZEROe Turbofan.

  • The cruising speed and the number of passengers are surprisingly close, so has this aircraft been designed as an A 320 or Boeing 737 replacement?
  •  I suspect too, that it has been designed to be used at any airport, that could handle an Airbus A 320 or Boeing 737.
  • It would be able to fly point-to-point flights between most pairs of European or North American cities.

It would certainly fit the zero-carbon shorter range airliner market!

In fact it would more than fit the market, it would define it!

I very much believe that Airbus’s proposed zero-carbon hydrogen-powered designs and others like them will start to define aviation on routes of up to perhaps 3000 miles, from perhaps 2035.

  • The A 320 neo was launched in December 2010 and entered service in January 2016.  That was just five years and a month.
  • I suspect that a lot of components like the fuselage sections, cockpit, avionics, wings, landing gear, tailplane and cabin interior could be the same in a A 320 neo and a ZEROe Turbofan.
  • Flying surfaces and aerodynamics could be very similar in an A 320 neo and a ZEROe Turbofan
  • There could even be commonality between the ZEROe Turboprop and the ZEROe Turbofan, with respect to fuselage sections, cockpit, avionics and cabin interior.

There also must be the possibility, that if a ZEROe Turbofan is a hydrogen-powered A 320 neo, that this would enable the certification process to be simplified.

It might even be possible to remanufacture a A 320 neo into a ZEROe Turbofan. This would surely open up all sorts of marketing strategies.

My project management, flying and engineering knowledge says that if they launched the ZEROe Turbofan this year, it could be in service by the end of the decade on selected routes.

Conclusion

Both the ZEROe Turboprop and ZEROe Turbofan are genuine zero-carbon aircraft, which fit into two well-defined market segments.

I believe that these two aircraft and others like them from perhaps Boeing and Bombardier could be the future of aviation between say 500 and 3000 miles.

With the exception of the provision of hydrogen refuelling at airports, there will be no need for any airport infrastructure.

I also wouldn’t be surprised that the thinking Airbus appear to have applied to creating the ZEROe Turbofan from the successful A 320 neo, could be applied to perhaps create a hydrogen-powered A 350.

I feel that Airbus haven’t fulling disclosed their thinking.  But then no company would, when it reinvents itself.

T also think that short-haul air routes will increasing come under pressure.

The green lobby  would like airlines to decarbonise.

Governments will legislate that airlines must decarbonise.

The rail industry will increasingly look to attract customers away from the airlines, by providing more competitive times and emphasising their green credentials.

Aircraft manufacturers will come under pressure to deliver zero-carbon airliners as soon as they can.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a prototype ZEROe Turbofan or Boeing’s equivalent fly as early as 2024.

Short Term Solutions

As I said earlier, one solution is to use existing aircraft with Sustainable Aviation Fuel.

But many believe this is greenwash and rather a cop out.

So we must do better!

I don’t believe that the smaller zero- and low-carbon aircraft with a range of up to 500 miles and a capacity of around 19 seats, will be able to handle all the passengers needing to fly between and around the islands of Great Britain and Ireland.

  • A Boeing 737 or Airbus A 320 has a capacity of around two hundred passengers, which would require ten times the number of flights, aircraft and pilots.
  • Airports would need expansion on the airside and the terminals to handle the extra planes.
  • Air Traffic Control would need to be expanded to handle the extra planes.

But the smaller planes would be ideal for the thinner secondary routes.

So I tend to think, that the greens will have to lump it, as Sustainable Aviation Fuel will increasingly be the only viable solution.

This will increase the need for Airbus or Boeing to develop a viable A 320 or 737-sized aircraft as soon as possible.

Air Bridges

I said earlier, that I believe using ferries between Ireland and Holyhead and new bi-mode Class 805 trains between London Euston and Holyhead could be a competitor to airlines.

  • The ferries would be high speed craft capable of Holyhead and Ireland in around 90-100 minutes.
  • The ferries would be zero-carbon.
  • The trains would have a sixty percent reduction in carbon emissions compared to current trains on the route.

If we can skim across the water in a zero-carbon high speed craft, are there any reasons we can’t cross the water in a low- or zero-carbon aircraft.

In the next few sub-sections, I’ll suggest a few air bridges.

Glasgow

Glasgow Airport could be an ideal airport for a  low or zero-carbon air bridge to Northern Ireland.

  • A rail link could eventually be built.
  • There is a reasonable amount of traffic.
  • The distance to Belfast City Airport is only 103 miles.

As the airport serves islands and other places that could be ideal low- and zero-carbon routes, I could see Glasgow becoming a hub for battery and hydrogen-powered aircraft.

Heathrow

Heathrow must prepare itself for an uncertain future.

It will be some years before a third runway is both needed and will have been constructed.

I believe the following will happen.

  • Smaller up to nineteen seat low- or zero-carbon airliners will be in service by 2025.
  • From around 2024, Heathrow will get requests to refuel or charge low- or zero-carbon airliners.
  • Low- or-zero- carbon A 320-size airliners will be in service by 2030.
  • Most ground equipment at Heathrow like tugs and fuel bowsers will be zero-carbon.

If I were Boris or Prime Minister, I would say that Heathrow could have its third runway with the following conditions.

  • All aircraft using the third runway must be zero-carbon
  • All air-side vehicles must be zero-carbon.
  • All vehicles bringing passengers on the last mile to the airport must be zero-carbon.
  • All aircraft using the airport that are not zero-carbon must use sustainable aviation fuel.

I suspect that the conditions would be met by a large margin.

When an airport knows it is effectively going to be closed, it will make sure it survives.

Liverpool

Liverpool Airport could be an ideal airport for a  low or zero-carbon air bridge to the island of Ireland.

  • There is a nearby Liverpool South Parkway station, with frequent services to both the local area and places further away.
  • An improved London train service starts in 2022 or 2023.
  • There would need to be a people mover between the station and the airport.
  • The airport can probably have piped hydrogen from across the Mersey.
  • There is already significant traffic to and from the island of Ireland.
  • Flight times Between Liverpool and Dublin and Belfast would be under an hour.

I also feel that Liverpool could develop lots of other low- and zero-carbon routes to perhaps Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Norwich, Southampton and the Isle of Man.

I could even see Liverpool having a Turn-Up-And-Go shuttle service to Dublin and Belfast, with small zero-carbon planes running every fifteen minutes or so.

Manston

I wouldn’t rule out Manston as a low- and zero-carbon airport for flights to the Benelux countries and Northern France and parts of Germany.

These are a few distances from Manston Airport.

  • Amsterdam – 160 miles
  • Brussels – 134 miles
  • Cologne – 253 miles
  • Dusseldorf – 234 miles
  • Frankfurt – 328 miles
  • Geneva – 414 miles
  • Hamburg – 396 miles
  • Le Touquet – 59 miles
  • Lille – 49 miles
  • Luxembourg – 243 miles
  • Ostend – 66 miles
  • Strasbourg – 339 miles

Manston’s position on the tip of Kent gives it an advantage and I think low- and zero-carbon services could reach Cologne, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hamburg and Strasbourg.

The airport also has other advantages.

  • A big electrolyser to produce hydrogen is being built at Herne Bay.
  • The area is rich in wind and solar energy.
  • I suspect the airspace to the East of the airport isn’t very busy and short hops to the Continent could be easy to slot in.

There is a new station being built at Thanet Parkway, which is on the Ashford and Ramsgate Line, which has regular services to London, including some services on High Speed One.

This Google Map shows the location of the airport and the station.

Note.

  1. The runway of Manston Airport.
  2. The Ashford and Ramsgate Line running across the South-East corner of the map.
  3. The station could be built to the West of the village of Cliffsend, which is indicated by the red arrow.
  4. I’m sure, a people mover or a zero-carbon bus could be built to connect the station and the airport.

There would need to be improvements in the frequency of services to and from London, but I’m sure Manston Airport could become an ideal airport for low- and zero-carbon aircraft serving the near Continent.

Southampton

Southampton Airport could be the ideal design for an airport to serve an air bridge.

  • The Southampton Airport Parkway station is connected to the terminal.
  • The station has numerous rail services, including a fast service to and from London.
  • The airport is expanding and could make sure all works are compatible with a low- and zero-carbon future.

Southampton is not ideally placed for services to Ireland, but with low- and zero-carbon aircraft it could be ideal for running services to the Channel Islands and Western France.

Other Airports

I suspect other airports will go the low- and zero-carbon route.

Conclusion

I started this post, with the intention of writing about writing about low- and zero-carbon transport between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland.

But it has grown.

I have now come to the conclusion that there are several low- and zero-carbon routes that could be developed.

The most promising would appear to be.

  • London Euston and Belfast by new Class 805 train to Holyhead and then zero-carbon high speed ferry.
  • London Euston and Dublin by new Class 805 train to Holyhead and then zero-carbon high speed ferry.
  • Glasgow and Belfast by train to Cairnryan and then zero-carbon high speed ferry.
  • Point-to-point air routes using new small nineteen seat low- or zero-carbon airliners with a range of 500 miles.
  • London Euston and Belfast by new Class 807 train to Liverpool Airport and then smaller low- or zero-carbon airliner.
  • London Euston and Dublin by new Class 807 train to Liverpool Airport and then and then smaller low- or zero-carbon airliner.
  • Other air bridges will develop.

But I am fairly certain by the end of the decade, there will be A320-size airlines powered by hydrogen taking us to Ireland and Western Europe.

I believe that the survival and ultimate prospering of Airbus and Boeing depends on the development of a range of zero-carbon airliners.

For this reason alone, they will succeed.

April 22, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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 | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Election 2019: DUP Manifesto At A Glance

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

This is said under Infrastructure.

The infamous bridge from Northern Ireland to Scotland makes an appearance in the manifesto. It has been mooted on a number of occasions, despite a number of potential barriers to its construction.

Not everyone believes those barriers are insurmountable, though.

I don’t and feel strongly, that the bridge should be built and linked to High Speed Two

  • London and Belfast in four hours
  • London and Dublin in five hours.
  • Belfast and Glasgow in under two hours.

Not forgetting, it would become an important freight route..

 

 

December 2, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Does Dublin Have A Gauge Problem?

Dublin’s Rail Systems

Dublin has three rail systems.

Luas

The Luas is Dublin’s modern tram and before the end of the year, will have two lines.

They will cross conveniently in the City Centre.

The gauge is standard gauge and all services are powered by 750 VDC overhead electrification

DART

The DART is Dublin’s commuter railway.

The gauge is Irish gauge and all services are powered by 1500 VDC overhead electrification.

Irish National Rail System

Long-distance services come into the two main stations; Connolly and Heuston.

The gauge is Irish gauge and all services are diesel-powered.

The two main stations are connected by the Green Line of the Luas.

Summing Up

Dublin seems to have drawn a short straw with tracks of two different gauges and two different electrification systems.

At least both electrification are DC overhead systems, so it wouldn’t be too difficult for a tram to work on both systems.

Tram-Trains On Dublin’s Rail System

If you look at cities and towns around the world, which have both tram and heavy rail systems, there is an increasing trend to use a common rail vehicle called a tram-train.

The German city of Karlsruhe has an extensive tram-train network and the UK is running a trial in Sheffield using a Class 399 tram-train.

On my trip to Dublin, I took the local suburban train from Heuston station to Kildate to see old friends.

Looking at the layout of Heuston station, it would be fairly easy create a connection between the Red Line of the Luas and the lines out of Heuston station.

It would be slightly more difficult at Connolly station, but not impossible.

In an ideal world, you could imagine a tram-train arriving at Heuston station taking to the Red Line and then travewlling on a service out of Connolly station.

It’s almost as it the route of the Red Line was chosen to9 make this possible.

But there is one major problem. Dublin’s trams are a different gauge to their heavy rail lines.

New Trains On The DART

The DART trains are not all that new and are only a few miles per hour faster than the Luas trams.

This is said in a section called Future Fleet in the Wikipedia entry for the DART.

In October 2008, Iarnród Éireann announced plans for a massive expansion of the DART fleet, with a €900 million order for a total of 432 individual EMU cars for delivery between 2011–2012. Due to the economic downturn this delivery was put on hold.

Would it be more affordable to buy off-the-shelf standard gauge trains, rather than special ones built to the Irish gauge?

I also suspect that if the DART lines were standard gauge, then it might be possible to use the same Citadis trams as on the Luas.

On the other hand there are Citadis trams built for Moscow that have the five foot Russian gauge. So could they be widened the extra three inches?

New Lines On The DART

This is said in a section called Future in the Wikipedia entry for the DART.

Plans have been laid out to expand the DART network beyond the coastal main line and provide service to the north and west of the city. Part of this expansion was to consist of a purpose built tunnel linking the Docklands Station at Spencer Dock in the city’s quays and Heuston Station This tunnel, termed DART Underground, included plans for services from Celbridge/Hazelhatch to the Docklands via St. Stephen’s Green. To accommodate this change, the plans called for the existing line to be realigned to run from Greystones in the south to Maynooth with the electrification of the Connolly to Maynooth line. An interchange at Pearse Street was to connect the proposed lines. The DART Underground project was however, put on indefinite hold in September 2015. The plans for expanded services remain in place[citation needed] and are being redesigned pending the release of funding.

New lines will need more trains.

Commonsense says that Dublin will have a comprehensive plan.

Conclusion

There are various ways to organise a particular number of trains for an efficient service.

 

December 4, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Exploring Dublin’s Trams

Dublin’s trams are called the LUAS and the consist of two lines; the Green and the Red.

Currently, there are two upgrades taking place.

  • The Green Line is being extended so there is an interchange with the Red in the centre of the City.
  • New six-segment articulated trams are being added to the system.

I was told that the extended Green Line will be running in a couple of weeks.

These are some or the pictures I took.

Note that I bought a €7.20 day ticket to use the trams.

I feel that the new layout with the Red and Green Lines crossing at the junction of O’Connell and Abbey Streets is good.

This Google Map shows the area.

Note that O’Connell Street links up with the widest bridge, where the Green Line will cross the Liffey going North.

Going South the tram uses the next bridge to the East, which I think is newly-built.

I think that it would be prudent, if you stayed at a hotel in Dublin, to choose one on either tram line.

December 1, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Belfast To Dublin By Train

I took the 08:00 train between Belfast and Dublin.

All went fairly well and the train arrived into Dublin Connolly station on time.

But information about travel to my hotel near St. Stephen’s Green was non-existent.

So I walked and got lost several times. Where were the maps?

At least in a couple of weeks, the journey will be possible using the trams with a change between the Red and Green Lines.

November 30, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

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 | Transport | , , , , , | 7 Comments