The Anonymous Widower

A Solution To The Northern Irish Problem!

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

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

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

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

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

Joint British And Irish Long-Term Objectives

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

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

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

An Anglo-Irish Fixed Link

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some are more practical than others.

Political Considerations

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

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

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

Practicality

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

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

The North Channel (Galloway) Route

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

Wikipedia says this about the link.

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

These problems must be solved.

Bridge Or Tunnel?

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

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

Beaufort’s Dyke

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

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

Rail Connection In Scotland

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

Electrification would probably be recommended.

Rail Connection To England

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

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

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

Rail Connection In Northern Ireland

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

Note.

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

It would appear to be very convenient.

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

 

 

The Variable Gauge Problem

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

NI Railways use Irish gauge tracks and are diesel powered.

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

So this would mean one of the following.

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

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

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

This would certainly allow the following.

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

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

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

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

So How Does It Solve The Irish Problem?

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

Should Irish Cricket Be Given Test Status?

Jason Gillespie thinks this according to a report on SkySports.

I am old enough to remember, when Test cricket didn’t include Sri Lanka, and none would say that admitting them hasn’t been a success.

At least admitting the Irish would probably raise the fun level.

December 15, 2014 Posted by | Sport | , | Leave a comment

The Irish Boiler Problem

When I think of Scotland being independent, I’m always reminded of a problem, that was ongoing at a hotel we stayed in, in Dublin.

The boiler for the central heating had failed and the poor plumber was trying to get it going again. The boiler had been made in England a few years before and it wasn’t a cheap one. But it turned out that as it was rather a special, the spare that the plumber wanted wasn’t held in Ireland. And as it was about six on a Friday evening, the factory in I think Birmingham had closed for the night.

So the hotel had to wait a few days for heating. At least they had an immersion heater for hot water.

The plumber told me, how this was often happening as with expensive plumbing and its spares, was generally not kept in Ireland as it was only a small country and it was usually ordered overnight from England.

One of the things that might be a problem with Scottish independence, is that companies don’t keep stock north of the border and it becomes much more difficult to get something urgently. You might also have more paperwork and different currencies and VAT rates.

Prices in Scotland might rise! Or they might fall. Who knows?

September 15, 2014 Posted by | World | , | 6 Comments

The Irish Are Invading

One of the things I noticed at The Allergy Show was the number of new companies that I’d never heard of before. Several of these exhibitors were from Ireland and I stopped at one called Pure Bred from Donegal. I had a taste of their gingerbread and it was seriously good for a commercial product, that didn’t have a touch of the dry about it.

As I needed a loaf and buying Genius, where I live, means shopping other than my convenient Waitrose, I bought one of their sliced wrapped farmhouse loaves.

Bread to me must do three main jobs; make good toast, edible sandwiches when I travel and also make a good crust for some of the recipes I use like this fish from Mary Berry.

When I got home, I made some toast.

The bread certainly made seriously good toast.

One question that must be asked, is all this Irish gluten-free activity, a sign that the Irish economy is on the way to a full recovery?

July 5, 2014 Posted by | Food | , , | 4 Comments

There’s Gold In Them There Bogs!

When he appeared on BBC radio this morning, one of those in charge of this project to mine gold in Ireland, said he’d lost count of the jokes about lucky Irish and leprechauns.

I suppose it will be a good area for the many Irish comedians to mine too!

January 9, 2014 Posted by | News | , , | Leave a comment

Irish Correctness!

I saw this newspaper on a bus this morning, as I came home from shopping and having lunch at Canary Wharf.

Irish Correctness!

Irish Correctness!

If you can’t read it, by the side of the headline of Keano 3 Latvia 0, someone has written + Martin in green ink.

November 16, 2013 Posted by | Sport | , , , | 2 Comments

Nationalism And The England Football Team

I went to the England match against Ireland last night at Wembley and although it wasn’t the best of matches, a thought about the England team struck me, as I listened to the phone-in on Radio 5 about English Nationalism.

It is surprising how many of the England team, could have been eligible to play for other countries. For example, Wayne Rooney and Gary Cahill have an Irish heritage and  Phil Jagielka has a Polish father and a Scottish mother.

On the other hand, I think at least one of the black players, was born in England to parents, who were also born here.

So nothing is ever what it seems!

I myself, have two strong immigrant lines in my genes; Jew and Huguenot, so when it comes for me to define what is Englishness, I can get rather lost.

Perhaps being of mixed genes is a requirement to being a true Englishman or Englishwoman.  After all Churchill had an American mother, Brunel had a French father and Alan Blumlein had a German father, to name but three.

I often define myself as a London Mongrel and when asked to fill in forms about my race, if I think I can get away with it, I do.

Could it all be down to hybrid vigour? It’s proper scientific name is heterosis.

I also like this quote on nationalism by Albert Einstein.

Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.

He is right!

May 30, 2013 Posted by | Sport | , , , | Leave a comment

A Very Good Marketing Idea

The Guardian describes them in this article as a St. Patrick’s day novelty, but surely shamrock-flavoured crisps are a superb marketing idea.

I wish Tom Keogh the best of luck with the crisps.  But I suspect he won’t need it, as nothing succeeds like an idea that tickles everybody’s fancy.

I can’t find out if the crisps are suitable for coeliacs.

March 16, 2013 Posted by | Business, Food | , | Leave a comment

The BBC’s Top Story Today

This story about Irish ‘nuns’ caught drinking illegally in Ireland is the most read on the BBC’s web site today.

I suppose the behaviour could be explained as they were Sisters of Charity and the local priest gave his blessing.

February 22, 2013 Posted by | News | , , | Leave a comment

Italy Goes To Ireland

Next year, the Giro d’Italia will start on the island of Ireland with three stages.  It’s all here on the BBC.

Knowing the Irish as I do, I think that they’ll have a good party.

February 21, 2013 Posted by | News, Sport | , , | Leave a comment