The Anonymous Widower

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

World’s Longest Sea Crossing: Hong Kong-Zhuhai Bridge Opens

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

It certainly looks to be an impressive bridge.

But I think it shows just how far design and construction of large bridges has moved in the last couple of decades.

In A Solution To The Northern Irish Problem!, I proposed building a fixed link between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The Chinese bridge has a length of 55 km, whereas a link between Northern Ireland and Scotland would be about 30 km.

Conclusion

I wouldn’t be surprised that the opening of the Chinese bridge will push politicians, engineers and financial institutions to look seriously, at a fixed link across the North Channel.

October 24, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 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 | Transport | , , , , | 5 Comments

Carol Kirkwood Probably Isn’t Popular In Katesbridge

Carol Kirkwood, the BBC Breakfast weather woman seems to have got it in for Katesbridge. For a couple of days now, she has highlighed the place as being one of the coldest in the United Kingdom.

The hundred or or so people who live there must be hardy souls.

 

February 4, 2015 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

An Iconic Picture Of A New Routemaster

I like this picture and report from the Wrightbus web site.

It shows a new Routemaster outside the Northern Ireland parliament building at Stormont, all decked out in pink for the visit of the Giro d’Italia.

The picture says so many things, some of which are political, but to me it shows how if you get the design of anything right, that stimulates the economy and creates jobs. But also as the report about the New Bus for West Yorkshire shows, these classic designs, look great in any colour, although black might be a bit much, as London has shown.

July 7, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Ulster Says No!

The talks in Northern Ireland seem to have ground to their inevitable conclusion, as is reported here on the BBC. Here’s the first bit.

Talks aimed at solving some of Northern Ireland’s most contentious issues ended on Saturday without agreement.

The five main parties will meet again early on Monday to discuss parades, flags and dealing with the past.

I am getting sick to death of the same entrenched attitudes, that have cost all of us billions of pounds.

Who is going to rid us of this troublesome country?

Most of my friends from Eire don’t want this bigotted basket case either!

One point that has to be made.  In most of England, we don’t have any religious parades that are contentious and you rarely see flags flown that some might not like. Even the cross of St. George has gone from something that was only flown to annoy to a flag flown with pride.  So why if we can do it on this side of the water, can’t the Northern Irish do it.

I was also in Liverpool in the sixties, where there was a nasty undercurrent of religious tension. You don’t hear anything negative like that, from the city now!

December 29, 2013 Posted by | News | , | 1 Comment

And Ulster Makes It Three!

After the two posts on racism and sexism, there was a story with a pictures in The Times yesterday about the celebration of the Battle of the Boyne in Northern Ireland.

Surely, it’s about time, we were celebrating the passing of this bigoted yearly remembrance of something that most of the residents of the United Kingdom don’t know about and care about even less.

July 12, 2013 Posted by | News | , , | Leave a comment

The Warning That Was Ignored

On the BBC web site, there is this article about the sinking of the ferry Princess Victoria on the 31st January 1951.

The BBC article gives a full time-line of the sinking of the ferry until she sent her last radio message at 13:58. But it leaves out anything of what happened later.

As a child for a few years I lived in Felixstowe and I can still remember the dark marks on the walls of the houses in Langer Road, showing how high the North Sea Floods of 1953 rose later on that fateful day, killing some 38 people in that end of the town.

Many more died in The Netherlands and Flanders.

Sad that the sinking of the Princess Victoria was, it seems inconceivable today, that the warning wasn’t heeded and so many deaths and damage occurred.

I hope we have learned from what happened that night.

January 27, 2013 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Fatal Blow For John Lewis Store At Sprucefield

This is the headline over a report on the BBC web site. It concerns the political arguments about John Lewis opening a department store in Northern Ireland.

Personally, I think they would be very brave to do it, given the stupid fuss being created by so-called Loyalists about the flying of flags.

The article does suggest John Lewis might open in the Republic.  Now that would probably be a sounder business decision, as the only organised violence there generally happens at places like Croke Park and the Aviva Stadium.

January 12, 2013 Posted by | News, Sport | , , , , , | Leave a comment