The Anonymous Widower

50 Secret Islands In Europe

The title of this post, is the same as an article in Travel section of The Times for May 4th 2019.

These are the islands.

Italy

  • San Nicola, Termiti Islands, Puglia
  • Ponza, Pontine Islands, Lazio
  • Favignana, Egadi Islands, Sicily
  • Capraia, Tuscany
  • Salina, Aeolian Islands – My favourite island!
  • Pellestrina, Venice
  • Panarea, Aeolian Islands – Been there!
  • Palmaria, Liguria
  • Budelli, Maddalena Archipelago, Sardinia

France

  • Ile de Batz, Brittany
  • Ushant, Brittany
  • Ile d’Arz, Brittany
  • Iles Chausey, Normandy
  • Ile de Behuard, Western Loire
  • Ile d’Yeu Vendee
  • Ile d’Aix, Charante-Maritime
  • Ile de Vassiviere, Limousin
  • Port-Cros, Provence
  • Ile Saint-Honorat, Provence

Croatia

  • Lastovo, Dubrovnik-Neretva
  • Vrnik, Korcula
  • Dugi Otok, Zadar
  • Prvic, Sibernik
  • Susak, Kvarner Islands
  • Palagruza

Spain

  • Illa da Taxa, Galicia
  • Illes Cies, Galicia
  • Tabarca, Valencia
  • La Graciosa, Canary Islands
  • Espalmador, Balearic Islands
  • Isla del Burguillo, Avila
  • Isla de Lobos, Canary Islands
  • Isla del Baron, Murcia

Greece

  • Anafi, Cyclades
  • Monissos, Cyclades
  • Folegandros, Cyclades
  • Fourni, Eastern Aegean
  • Ios, Cyclades
  • Kea, Cyclades
  • Kimolos, Cyclades
  • Kythira, Ionian
  • Tinos, Cyclades
  • Tilos, Dodecanese

Best Of The Rest

  • Helgoland, Germany
  • Sejero, Denmark
  • Ameland, Netherlands
  • Great Blasket, Ireland
  • Cape Clear, Ireland
  • Muhu, Estonia
  • Ada Bojana, Montenegro

I shall keep the pages, as some of these islands are worth visiting.

May 12, 2019 Posted by | World | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Irish Rail Seeks Second-Hand DMUs To Boost Fleet Capacity

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on the Internation Railway Journal.

Ireland needs more capacity on its railways and the preferred solution appears to be some second-hand DMUs.

It is likely, they will come from Great Britain.

  • We are replacing some DMUs with new fleets.
  • The Irish have a similar restricted loading gauge.
  • The trains will need to be converted from standard to Irish gauge.

The article mentions that Class 185 trains are likely candidates.

Yet again, the stupid decision of the British Government in the Railway Regulation (Gauge) Act 1846, is costing the Irish good money.

February 15, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | 2 Comments

A Glimpse Of 2035

Today, I was on the first direct train between London and Dublin.

I arrived at Euston early for the eight o’clock departure time and took my seat in First Class of the train built by Spanish company Talgo at Longannet in Fife.

The train appeared to be little different to the High Speed Two trains, that I have ridden extensively since they started running in 2026.

What differences there were, were in the decor and colour schemes, with the train wrapped in a rainbow of colours reflecting the red, white and blue of the UK and the orange, white and green of the Irish Republic.

We left on time and after a brief stop at Old Oak Common to pick up passengers we were soon speeding towards Birmingham whilst eating breakfast. I had requested a gluten-free Full English and the quality showed how far railway food has come in the two decades.

Birmingham at 08:40

Running at 225 mph, the spectacular Birmingham International station was reached on time at 08:40 and there were quite a few passengers who left and joined.

Birmingham International

Since Heathrow’s plans for a third runway crashed in the planning process and the opening of Gatwick’s second runway, High Speed Two has enabled long distance travellers to use Birmingham Airport, which since the opening of High Speed Two in 2026 and its subsequent extensions to Manchester and Leeds, has grown at a fast pace.

As a jokey advert shown around the world by Visit Britain said, London now has three main airports; London South (Gatwick), London West (Heathrow) and London North (Birmingham).

On a recent trip to the Gambia, I used Birmingham Airport for both flights and coming back, I was in my house in East London, around an hour after I set foot in the terminal at the Airport.

High Speed Two and the expanded Birmingham Airport have certainly expanded and improved the economics of Birmingham and the wider West Midlands.

Crewe Before 09:00

Next stop was Crewe station, which from today has been renamed Crewe International, to indicate that you can now get trains to England, Scotland, Wales and now Ireland.

The station is unrecognisable from the tired Victorian station, I first passed through in 1965 on my way to Liverpool University for the first time.

Like Birmingham and the West Midlands, the area around Crewe has benefited immensely from the arrival of High Speed 2 in 2027 and the continuing expansion of Manchester Airport.

From today, Crewe is now served by these trains in both directions, in each hour.

  • London – Belfast and Dublin
  • London – Glasgow (2 trains)
  • London – Liverpool (2 trains)
  • London – Preston

The ticketing and capacity is such, that Crewe now has a genuine turn-up and-go service to the capital, which is just under an hour away.

Preston At 09:20

The train was now on the upgraded West Coast Main Line and the train was limited to 140 mph, but Preston was reached on time, just eighty minutes from London.

When High Speed Two opened to Crewe in 2027, the journey time was a few minutes longer, but improvements to trains, tracks and signalling in the intervening years, had reduced the time.

On the journey from Crewe, the train had passed the massive construction site of the new Central Lancashire station, or as Scouse comedians have dubbed it – Wigan International.

This new  station will be a hub linking the following.

  • The West Coast Main Line
  • High Speed Three between Liverpool and Manchester.
  • The M6 and M62 motorways
  • Manchester Metrolink
  • Merseyrail

The station should have probably been built years earlier, when High Speed Three opened in 2026, but all forecasts of the number of passengers who would use the new High Speed Lines, were much lower than they were in practice.

Preston station like Crewe is a station  that has been rebuilt to handle two of the 200 metre long trains running as a pair.

These long platforms are now used at Preston to join and split some services, to give Blackpool, Blackburn and Burnley three fast services per day to and from London, in under two hours.

Carlisle At 10:20

We sped through the Lake District at 140 mph, to reach Carlisle in under two and a half hours from London.

It should be noted that timings North of Crewe have improved over the last couple of decades.

  • All passenger trains running on the fast lines North of Crewe are capable of matching the speed of the High Speed Two trains
  • Some of these trains used for services between Liverpool/Manchester and Glasgow/Edinburgh were built by Talgo to High Speed Two standards.
  • The few freight trains running in the day are now hauled by 125 mph electric locomotives.
  • The continuous upgrading of the Cumbrian Coast, Settle-Carlisle and Tyne Valley Lines has also allowed some trains to divert away from the West Coast Main Line.

Effectively, the West Coast Main Line North of Crewe has become a high-capacity 140 mph line.

Belfast At 11:30

When I saw that it was planned that trains would reach Belfast from London in the same time that it takes to go between London and Glasgow, I didn’t believe it would be possible.

But we arrived at the Belfast Parkway station on the outskirts of the City on time.

The journey between where we left the now-electrified Glasgow and South Western Line just to the West of Gretna to the bridge across the North Channel had been nearly all at 140 mph and there was little interruption before we ventured onto the bridge to Northern Ireland.

A few minutes later we were waiting to continue our journey at Belfast Parkway.

There had been political arguments about the gauge of the tracks on the thirty mile section between Scotland and Belfast.

But in the end the engineers got their way.

  • There is a standard gauge line as far as Belfast Parkway.
  • From Belfast Parkway, there is Irish gauge for the rest of the journey.

There would be no change of train at Belfast Parkway, as the Talgo High Speed Trains have had the ability to change gauge at a slow speed for thirty years.

Dublin At 13:30

This has been the slowest part of the journey, but we pulled into Dublin on time to a lot of celebrations.

Conclusion

This route has been a long time coming, since it was first seriously proposed in 2018.

There will be improvement in the next few years.

  • A service between Edinburgh and Dublin via Glasgow and Belfast starts next year.
  • The West Coast Main Line North of Crewe will allow faster and more trains.
  • The EU are funding and building a High Speed Line from the Irish border to Dublin.
  • This Irish High Speed Line will be linked to a new deep water port at Shannon.

I can see London to Belfast in three hours and London to Dublin in four.

 

 

 

 

November 15, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 13 Comments

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

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

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 | , , , , | 5 Comments

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