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Northern Ireland - Scotland Rail Tunnel

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Chester1

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The Telegraph is reporting that Peter Hendy (Chairman of Network Rail) has asked Doug Oakervee to review a Stranraer - Larne Tunnel.


Boris Johnson has given his blessing to a review exploring a multi billion-pound rail tunnel between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Sir Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail, has asked experts to conduct a review of a potential tunnel between Stranraer and Larne.

Doug Oakervee, the author of a Government-commissioned report that gave HS2 the green light earlier this year, will lead the analysis.

Sir Peter said: “If you look at the distance between Northern Ireland and Scotland it is actually no further than the Channel Tunnel.

“I said to Boris, I am not going to get any further than finding out whether it is feasible, how long it will take and how much it might cost."

The Prime Minister appointed Sir Peter to conduct a wider “Union connectivity review” in June to assess improvements to transport links between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Last September Mr Johnson asked civil servants to consider the building of a 21-mile bridge between Northern Ireland and the British mainland at an estimated cost of £20bn.

Scottish ministers said in March that Downing Street had now asked them to look at a tunnel amid fears that high winds would close a bridge crossing for up to 100 days-a-year.

A key plank of the Convervatives' general election pledge to level up the economy was boosting regional connectivity.

Fears have mounted, however, that the coronavirus pandemic has put this priority on hold - not least when ministers’ refused to bail out regional airline Flybe in March.

Sir Peter, who led Transport for London under Mr Johnson when he was London mayor, told the Railway Industry Association annual conference: “The Government’s policy is to bring the United Kingdom closer together. The quest for economic growth, particularly in the light of Brexit, is a common desire for Westminster and for the developed administration governments.

“If you look at air and ferry connections, one of the current bugbears for Northern Ireland is that since Flybe went bust there is much less opportunity to fly into Northern Ireland. They clearly find that very difficult. Maybe I can look at that and do something about it.”

Its not stated but the names involved would suggest a rail tunnel was preferred. It would be much cheaper than a road tunnel but would have fewer benefits. A rail tunnel would be feasible, being a very similar length to the Channel Tunnel. It would need to be significantly deeper to go under the Beaufort Dyke (and its dumped WW2 bombs and chemical weapons) but the estimated cost should be in the same ball park as what the Channel Tunnel would cost to build today. Its probably just typical Boris PR but it does sound like the options are being narrowed down to something that is technically feasible and that would have a poor but not terrible business case. The biggest issue would be risking England and Wales having to pick up the bill in the event of either (or both) Scottish independence or a United Ireland.

Apologies for creating a new thread but the old one was locked.
 
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XAM2175

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The question is why? Vanity? Politics? Grandiose scheme? Genuine concern about carbon reduction? Other?

Reading between the lines of "The Prime Minister appointed Sir Peter to conduct a wider “Union connectivity review” in June to assess improvements to transport links between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland..." and "The Government’s policy is to bring the United Kingdom closer together. The quest for economic growth, particularly in the light of Brexit...", I'm leaning towards it being Mr Johnson fishing for favours (and pro-Union feelings) in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

While it is rather gratifying to image such a vast sum of money being spent entirely outside of England I can't imagine a viable business case ever being made for actually building the thing - especially when the only non-political motivation given here is that of replacing a small regional airline's flights to Belfast.
 

SynthD

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Norway’s mega project to link up their west coast has a variety of tunnels. I think one type is floating/suspended a distance beneath the ocean but well above the floor. That would mean this long tunnel is out of the way of ships and currents. I think either way they’d need to ‘safely’ detonate the bomb cache.
 

Senex

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The question is why? Vanity? Politics? Grandiose scheme? Genuine concern about carbon reduction? Other?
Your first two suggestions — vanity, and politics (i.e. a desperate desire to cling on to the Six Counties).
 

stuu

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Norway’s mega project to link up their west coast has a variety of tunnels. I think one type is floating/suspended a distance beneath the ocean but well above the floor. That would mean this long tunnel is out of the way of ships and currents. I think either way they’d need to ‘safely’ detonate the bomb cache.
That's been proposed in a few places, especially for crossing Sognefjord, but no 'floating' tunnel has ever been built afaik
 

irish_rail

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A real white elephant of an idea. Personally I think a bridge or a tunnel to be a good idea but certainly not from South west Scotland when the vast majority who would use it would be going to or from northern and southern England. Would still be quicker to fly.
 

Sad Sprinter

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Regardless of the politics, it would still be amazing to travel from London to Belfast on high-speed train.

Sadly, if a GB to Ireland tunnel will ever be built, I think it would have to be under the Holyhead to Dublin corridor, where it'll gain the most traffic. But of course, a 50 mile tunnel to a city the size of Dublin will never happen.
 

4-SUB 4732

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I suppose it’s potentially more to do with the ability for boxes and freight to run between the likes of Tilbury, Felixstowe and Southampton to Belfast and maybe Dublin as well as from the likes of Tyne and Tees.

Your passenger routes are more likely to be from Glasgow and the North West, but with the emphasis on connectivity on/off high speed stuff at Carlisle. Perhaps that’s part of the reason for that strange location of the High Speed depot at Gretna (ish), mind?
 

Train Maniac

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If your going to go to the effort of building a very expensive link, dont make the same mistake Chunnel did- make it dual use for trains *and* cars (it was a bridge proposed last time at least). Still not going to happen if funded by the government, Chunnel was private and made a huge loss anyway.
 

Djgr

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It's just a Celtic version of the Garden Bridge. Another BoJo fantasy soundbite.
 

DB

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In order for any through running to be possible, it would be necessary to reguage the railways in Ireland...
 

Ianno87

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If your going to go to the effort of building a very expensive link, dont make the same mistake Chunnel did- make it dual use for trains *and* cars (it was a bridge proposed last time at least). Still not going to happen if funded by the government, Chunnel was private and made a huge loss anyway.

The roads of SW Scotland won't know what hit them!
 

furnessvale

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Utterly pointless when the first thing you have to do at the other side is change gauge.
 

Irascible

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Would have thought developing proper high-speed roro ferries with well planned terminals would be a slightly better spend. Anyone remember what the average speed including docking ( landing/takeoff? ) of the old Hoverspeed service was?

Gauge-changing has been a thing for many years, so it's not impossible.
 

Fawkes Cat

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In order for any through running to be possible, it would be necessary to reguage the railways in Ireland...
No. We need to think this one through carefully.

I haven’t seen any suggestion that the Irish railway system is at capacity. But the GB system is - that’s the whole point of building HS2, to increase the rail capacity between London and the north (including Scotland).

HS2 hasn’t been built yet. So the solution is obvious - rather than expensively and disruptively regauging Ireland’s railways, HS2 should be built to a 5’ 3” gauge, through to Stranraer.
 

zwk500

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HS2 hasn’t been built yet. So the solution is obvious - rather than expensively and disruptively regauging Ireland’s railways, HS2 should be built to a 5’ 3” gauge, through to Stranraer.
Good one!

Seriously, Spain has been using variable-gauge axles for years. there's no need to regauge either network. The bigger problem, as many have mentioned, is that you'd be spending all the money you saved on a shorter crossing upgrading the access to Stranraer with heavy rail and Dual Carriageways. Holyhead is already accessed by the A55 and heavy rail. The largest flows of both cargo and passengers between Great Britain and Ireland are on the London-Dublin Axis, and I think Holyhead is the 2nd busiest port in the UK after Dover. Holyhead is also more convenient the Stranraer for the West Midlands & M62 corridor. If you were to build a fixed link, Holyhead-Dublin is where it has to go.
If your going to go to the effort of building a very expensive link, dont make the same mistake Chunnel did- make it dual use for trains *and* cars (it was a bridge proposed last time at least). Still not going to happen if funded by the government, Chunnel was private and made a huge loss anyway.
One option for the Channel Tunnel did propose a motorway (Euroroute) - It involved a 5 mile bridge either end and a 10-mile tunnel to resolve ventilation and Driver fatigue issues. A Stranraer-Larne tunnel would be right on the edge of driver safety. A bridge across the Irish Sea would probably be shut down for 3 months of every year due to Winter weather.
It's just a Celtic version of the Garden Bridge. Another BoJo fantasy soundbite.
Totally Agree
 

Irascible

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Are you talking Holyhead-Dublin, or Holyhead-Belfast? one is all the way up the coast of Ireland, and the other one requires you going outside the UK to use it! never mind it being the sensible place, it'd be a political landmine.
 

PeterC

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Utterly pointless when the first thing you have to do at the other side is change gauge.
Why? I don't think anybody will be planning through trains to places like Cullybacky so a new standard guage line from Larne to Belfast and a container depot are all that would be needed on the western side.
 

zwk500

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Are you talking Holyhead-Dublin, or Holyhead-Belfast? one is all the way up the coast of Ireland, and the other one requires you going outside the UK to use it! never mind it being the sensible place, it'd be a political landmine.
Holyhead-Dublin. It linking the UK and Ireland would be part of the point: costs could be shared between the UK, Ireland and the wider EU. But politics changes very quickly, so I wouldn't worry about that until the tunnel is technically and economically feasible. By the time the business case stacks up Northern Ireland may not be part of the UK, or the UK might have rejoined the EU. Or both. Or Neither.
 

Hardcastle

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Improve the ferry links might be a good start say Belfast to Heysham there was a fast cat service that operated twice daily early this decade. But was finished when the early morning sailing from Belfast caught fire it never sailed after that. I used it once & it was quiet busy.
 

XAM2175

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It's also entirely possible for a line to be dual-gauge, you know - although when using a 4'8.5" and 5'3" pairing it's generally necessary to use lighter narrow-base rail.

This is, of course, one of the least-significant technical questions associated with the project :p
 

Ianno87

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In order for any through running to be possible, it would be necessary to reguage the railways in Ireland...
Utterly pointless when the first thing you have to do at the other side is change gauge.

Probably just easier to build a new 1635mm gauge route to a terminus in Central Belfast (or Dublin) and interchange for onward travel.
 

XAM2175

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Probably just easier to build a new 1635mm gauge route to a terminus in Central Belfast (or Dublin) and interchange for onward travel.
Well if they get a new Belfast-Larne link then we'll be needing a new Glasgow-Stranraer line too! What number are we up to now for High Speed proposals? :lol:
 

Dr Hoo

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I note that in a recent edition of IRJ there is an item on the Chinese having developed a 400km/h gauge-changeable train. (I presume that it does have to slow down a bit at the point of transition.)
 

Chester1

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Holyhead-Dublin. It linking the UK and Ireland would be part of the point: costs could be shared between the UK, Ireland and the wider EU. But politics changes very quickly, so I wouldn't worry about that until the tunnel is technically and economically feasible. By the time the business case stacks up Northern Ireland may not be part of the UK, or the UK might have rejoined the EU. Or both. Or Neither.

Combined with a rebuild of the line between Belfast and Dublin and between Holyhead and Crewe such a tunnel could connect Northern Ireland with England and Wales. Its about 120 miles between Crewe and Holyhead, 55 miles across Irish Sea and then about 100 miles to Belfast. A total of approximately 275 miles between Belfast and Crewe which would be 20 minutes to Manchester and 55 minutes to London on HS2. London to Dublin in 3 hours and Belfast in 4 hours would be possible with upgrades and very limited sections of new track.
 

randyrippley

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This is silly
It would be far cheaper and simpler to build a long-distance cablecar system from Carlisle to Belfast.
If we can easily place wind turbine towers in the Irish sea, then a string of cablecar supports would be childsplay.

Or maybe run it Heysham-Douglas-Belfast
 

WideRanger

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Surely if the Channel Tunnel is economically marginal, then how would such a project work, given that the number of passengers and freight would be a small fraction of that on the English Channel?
 
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