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An amazing achievement DoDo.  Very occasionally there has been talk of linking Ireland with Europe through a Dublin Holyhead bridge/tunnel but the financial problems of the Chunnel have dampened that a great deal.  Do you know of any feasibility studies, and what the costs/technical constraints would be?

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Dec 17th, 2009 at 07:01:57 PM EST
Well, if they want to avoid the financial problems of the Chunnel, all they have to do is abandon the idea of private financing...

However, at present, I consider Dublin-Holyhead a daydream (near the level of the Bering Strait crossing or the Japan-South Korea, Taiwan-mainland China tunnels). The distance is almost twice of the Chunnel's, yet the demand to be expected is lower. Tunnelling should get much cheaper before this becomes realistic.

Curiously, a crossing of the Irish Sea has been proposed repeatedly at its narrowest point (towards Scotland), too. This is strange because the sea bottom is MUCH deeper there, IIRC 800 m -- it would be the deepest undersea tunnel, three times deeper than anything today.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:14:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wikipedia has more:

Irish Sea tunnel - Wikipedia

Four possible routes have at different times been identified, the first two taken together as North Channel routes. These are:

A fifth route, via the Isle of Man, would require two tunnels, but has never been seriously considered due to length and difficult geology[1].



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:15:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the sea bottom is MUCH deeper there, IIRC 800 m

Either I can't trust my memory, or used to look at a map with depths in feet...

Coastal and Marine Research, University of Ulster

Beaufort's Dyke is one of the deepest areas in the waters of the inner UK coastal shelf with a maximum-charted depth of 302m, approximately 3 times the mean depth of the surrounding waters.

That can be mastered, though it would still be a new record (vs. Eiksund tunnel's current record of -287 m from 2008).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:24:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
By the time anyone gets around to building that we'll be able to run buses over the ice sheet between Holyhead and Dublin.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:50:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
High-speed to somewhere nearby - Manchester perhaps? Liverpool? - and short-hop flights would probably make more sense, especially if you can engineer aircraft to use zero-carbon fuels. That tunnel is way too expensive for such a small population on the Irish end.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:55:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How about travelling by submarine? One of the problems with ferries and faster boats is that they stop running when the sea is rough.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 05:07:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wouldn't a submarine be slower than a surface ferry? The slow ferry is almost never cancelled, the fast ones run unreliably for about half the year.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 05:24:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not if it's a nuclear submarine, 30 knots easily... ;)

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 06:50:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They could take a tip from Columbian drug smugglers, who build ships that basically run just below the surface with snorkels up for air and exhaust.  They are going for a low profile to avoid detection, but a similar design on a scale of a large ferry with tanks that could be pumped out for docking would be much less vulnerable to most sea conditions. :-)

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 01:15:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In comparison to the Channel Tunnel, there are many factors which put it in the pipedream category. As already mentioned, potential traffic on the route is a pretty small fraction of the potential on the Channel, while the costs of building a tunnel would be higher.

It was widely assumed that the ferry companies would slope off with their tails between their legs, leaving the tunnel to mop up Dover-Calais traffic. Certainly at the beginning, the restructuring was painful, but  the ferries still take a huge share. Shuttle traffic is actually declining. Plenty people have decided that sitting in their car in a tube looking at the car in front is not preferable to enjoying the delights of a ferry, regardless of the time saving. Short of government action to ensure there was no ferry competition, the same factors would weigh on a UK-Ireland tunnel.

Unless you carve a high-speed line across Wales from Birmingham to Holyhead, high-speed rail will not be able to compete with air timewise on the Dublin-London route. So again, unless government action on environmental or other grounds limits air traffic on UK-Ireland routes, passenger services will not have the advantages that Eurostar has gained over flights on its routes.

Through-trains beyond the tunnel mouth in Ireland, whether passenger or freight, also come up against the gauge problem.

Finally, the three routes (North Channel, Holyhead and Fishguard) are so far apart that a tunnel on one would have limited impact on traffic on the others, unless the governments found a way to encourage/force traffic through the tunnel. Just imagine if traffic from Belfast to Glasgow was forced to go down to Dublin than back up from Holyhead... in no way can that be preferable to the short crossing on time, cost, environmental grounds - unless there's an expenses fiddle to be worked, so it could be great for AMs, MSPs and MPs;-).

by koksapir on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 05:36:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, you've got to put in context of air travel that is forced to carry full costs - carbon emissions, government subsidies of airports, higher fuel costs etc - which changes the economic balance a fair bit.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 05:44:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Certainly at the beginning, the restructuring was painful, but  the ferries still take a huge share. Shuttle traffic is actually declining. Plenty people have decided that sitting in their car in a tube looking at the car in front is not preferable to enjoying the delights of a ferry, regardless of the time saving.

Actually, there is another, stronger reason: the ferries had more room to cut prices. However, even while I think Dublin-Holyhead is a pipedream, I want to note:

  1. Let's not confuse car and air traffic. Ireland may be small, but Dublin-London is actually one of the busiest air routes within the EU, to which one could add Dublin-Libverpool, Dublin-Manchester and Dublin-Birmingham. So, if and when Britain gets itself to build High Speed 2, the giant tunnel would get much closer to being justifiable on high-speed traffic grounds.

  2. Passengers is one thing, cargo is another. Though Ireland's broad gauge network would limit its usefulness beyond Dublin, a faster competition to Dublin port's traffic would be something. (Then again, I am assuming that the French side track access issues hampering Eurotunnel's ambitions to attract through rail traffic are solved by the time a Dublin-Holyhead tunnel could be built.)


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 08:43:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
12M people travel from the Republic of Ireland to Britain by air every year (compared to 9M Chunnel passengers) of which 8M travel Dublin London (the busiest route in the EU).  So the passenger traffic volumes could be comparable to the Chunnel depending on price/convenience etc. To that you could add some of current ferry traffic. Volume of freight comparisons I don't know.

The other issue is the need to upgrade rail lines on both sides, and the 1,435 mm standard gauge and the 1,600 mm Irish broad gauge.  

The only way I could see any such project becoming seriously considered would be as part of a pan EU initiative to reduce carbon emissions and facilitate closer economic integration.  I doubt it could ever be "profitable" without some state infrastructural subvention.

The Irish sea isn't all that deep for the most part.  Would a bridge for some of it be a technically/financially feasible alternative for part of it?

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 11:51:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Irish Sea - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The sea is of significant economic importance to regional trade, shipping and transport, fishing and power generation in the form of wind power and nuclear plants. Annual traffic between the two islands amounts to over 12 million passengers and 17 million tonnes of traded goods.


notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 11:54:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
8M travel Dublin London (the busiest route in the EU)

Heh, and here I thought the _Puente Aereo Madrid-Barcelona_ was the busiest.

According to page 4 of this Eurostat press release (PDF, 4 December 2009), the busiest intra-EU air links were

Madrid-Barcelona       3.5M -24%
Roma-Milano Linate     2.5M  -1.1%
Paris Orly-Toulouse    2.3M  -0.1%
Paris Orly-Nice        2.3M  -1.3%
London Heathrow-Dublin 1.8M  -8.2%
Though maybe other airport combinations between Dublin and London make up the difference.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 02:22:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(passenger number for 2008 and percentage change from 2007)

See DoDo's Puente AVE.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 02:43:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
maybe other airport combinations between Dublin and London make up the difference

Gatwick, Stansted, Luton... Am I forgetting any?

They'd have to share 6.2 million passengers to make up the 8m sum, and that would put at least one of them (if not two or three) in the table above Heathrow-Dublin.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 02:51:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
city?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 02:59:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not in the top 30 airports by passenger traffic, according to the Eurostat pdf. So unlikely to make a big difference. It's still odds-on one of the airports would be doing more than Heathrow.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 03:04:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dublin airport passenger traffic to fall, says authority - The Irish Times - Thu, Jan 29, 2009

The DAA said yesterday that a record 23.5 million passengers used Dublin airport last year, an increase of 1 per cent on 2007.

Passenger traffic rose by 5 per cent in the first half of the year, but declined by 3 per cent between July and December as the effects of the global credit crunch, rising fuel prices and the economic downturn here took hold.

Passenger numbers declined in each of the last four months of 2008. "Given the current economic climate, the outlook for 2009 remains difficult, and passenger numbers at Dublin airport are expected to decline in line with the contraction in Irish GDP," the DAA said.

Traffic to the UK declined last year by 1 per cent to 8.6 million passengers, while the number of people using domestic routes fell by 5 per cent to 870,000.

My original source was Wikipedia - this is the best other source I have found, but it doesn't give a separate breakdown for London

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 03:18:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wikipedia does say
There are approximately 50 daily departures from Dublin to all five London airports (Stansted, Luton, Gatwick, Heathrow and London City), The Dublin-London route is the second busiest route in the world after the Hong Kong-Taipei route.
50 daily departures times (say) 350 days times (say) 200 passengers per flight gives 3.5M passengers.
During the 1980s, major competition, especially on the Dublin-London routes, resulted in passenger numbers swelling to 5.1 million in 1989.
Also
Top 10 International Arrivals Figures for 2008.
Rank	Origin				     Number of Passengers
1	   London Heathrow Airport, England, United Kingdom	894,536
2	London Gatwick Airport,  England, United Kingdom	541,593
3	   London Stansted Airport, England, United Kingdom	462,756
for a total of 1.9M

Conclusions: the Eurostar figures count both departing and arriving passengers, otherwise the Heathrow figures for 2008 would be way off between different sources. The total Dublin-London traffic is over twice that for Dublin-Heathrow and it probably does exceed the Madrid-Barcelona traffic but it didn't in 2007 (Madrid-Barcelona was 33% higher a year earlier).

100 passengers per flight is a better average than 200 at least for the Dublin-London distance range.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:04:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Both Ryanair and Aer lingus - the dominant carriers - only use large jets on the route - with 180+ seats and very high load factors.  Heathrow landing slots are too valuable to use with smaller plans and Ryanair has a policy of only using large planes.

Perhaps the "second busiest route in the world" only applies to international routes?

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:19:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, as you know Madrid-Barcelona is on its way to becoming an international route. And half of the passengers are already foreigners anyway.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:44:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean Catalans travelling to an independent Catalonia?

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:54:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I mean Catalonia is Spain but Catalans are foreigners. Or something like that. I can never figure out what the PPers are all about.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:55:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Conclusions: the Eurostar figures count both departing and arriving passengers

Surely you mean DDA and Wikipedia (Irish Sea Tunnel article) figures.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:27:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Eurostat gives 1.8M passengers on the Heathrow-Dublin link, whereas WIkipedia quotes 0.9M arriving passengers. Therefore the Eurostar figures must count travellers in both directions.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:42:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Which are the Eurostar figures you speak of?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:49:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
these upthread.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:52:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gah, dyslexia!

I mean Eurostat, of course.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:54:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh. In the meantime, what I thought I "got" was that for a meaningful comparison with Eurostar figures, airport arrivals and departures statistics must be added.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:57:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, I get it now.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:55:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank omitted "international". Dublin-Heathrow is the busiest intra-EU international link, and was in 2007 too.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:29:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On the Toulouse connection (and probably Nice too) there are also flights to and from Paris CdG. Upwards of 4,400 flights a year. I don't know how many passengers that would add, but at a rough guess at least half a million.

And SNCF would rather leave that traffic to planes...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 03:01:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The government seems more fond of the LGV PACA, having decided to pursue the more expensive coastal variant from Marseille to Nice.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:01:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Would a bridge for some of it be a technically/financially feasible alternative for part of it?

Sure; but what's the point? It would not be cheaper, and traffic on it would depend on weather.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:03:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Checking this source, it appears 12M as the figure of total flights between Ireland and Britain is right (6M arrivals as well as departures to/from the UK); the 8M figure may be Dublin to all of Britain, however.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 05:05:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the 8M figure may be Dublin to all of Britain, however

Yes.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 05:25:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The point being that current Air passenger volumes Ireland (excl. N. Ireland) to/from Britain are greater than Chunnel volumes.  (I haven't looked at freight).

Thus if we did want to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions, the volumes would be significant and sufficient to justify a tunnel.  I don't know how you would calculate the CO2 saving and I also don't know whether the cost could be justified on any rationale.  You guys are the train experts.

However the idea doesn't seem as mad to me as it might sound at first.  Note a route across the Irish sea from Dublin to Holyhead would have to navigate a maximum sea depth of c. 100M - which seems v. little and which is also why I also raised the bridge option - which could be enclosed to avoid weather issues - although snow on Irish sea is v. rare and slight and I presume wind is not a problem for trains.  In fact the entire route could also be a giant offshore wind farm with bridge pillars doubling as turbine pylons.

The problem with the bridge option is that at least one section would have to be v. high to allow shipping traffic underneath - or have an opening mechanism for large ships.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 06:55:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The point being that current Air passenger volumes Ireland (excl. N. Ireland) to/from Britain are greater than Chunnel volumes.

Well that wasn't a proper comparison. You'd have to compare with Eurostar + all flights to Belgium and Northern France.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 03:08:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fair point.  I was just trying to get a handle on potential orders of magnitude of the available traffic.  Obviously any tunnel will never capture 100% market share, unless short hop flights are banned, and prices make sea passenger/freight uneconomic - which feeds back into the issue of the financial justification for the project.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 08:07:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thus if we did want to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions

Well, the concrete for the tunnel lining would involve a lot of CO2 emissions.

I also don't know whether the cost could be justified on any rationale.

That's a political issue, not a technical one. If a government sees a benefit, whether its benefits are quantified or not, it can decide to shoulder an investment. But, even though I don't think that the Irish Sea Tunnel would cost more with today's technologies than the Chunnel did with technologies back then, it looks like a tall order.

maximum sea depth of c. 100M

At a length of 90+km, the real challenge is not depth. It is length, and water control. Unless one or more expensive articical islands/giant caissons are built in the sea for intermediate accesses, it would have to be bored from both ends, meaning the transport of dug material away from and tunnel lining towards the TBM over up to 50 km. Building watertight tunnels across water-bearing strata is no problem per se, but you should better know in advance what rocks can be expected in sequence, so a lot of boreholes would have to be dug between Dublin and Holyhead.

bridge option - which could be enclosed to avoid weather issues - although snow on Irish sea is v. rare and slight and I presume wind is not a problem for trains

Enclosed: costs even more, you just lifted the tunnel above the sea, and added pylons. And wind is a problem for any vehicle with significant side wall surface area.

I repeat that bridges aren't a cheaper alternative. The reason Denmark built its two big sea strait crossing links as bridge-tunnel combinations was on one hand to avoid complications with ventillation for the road tunnel part, on the other hand to keep bridge-building experts employed. (And the same reasons apply for the planned Fehmarn Belt crossing.)

bridge pillars doubling as turbine pylons

That's not necessarily a good idea. Vibrations, danger to trains if a blade breaks or sheds ice.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 03:29:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Vibrations/stresses on the bridge structure I would see as the major issue.  An enclosed bridge might mitigate ice danger - I would be v. surprised if much ever formed on moving or even still rotors at prevailing temperatures over the Irish sea.  It was the length of tunnel issue - with the attendant safety, fire, and ventilation issues which I was trying to address by raising bridge option.

As you say - cost is ultimately a Government decision, but I would see it as v. likely to be totally unaffordable for any Irish Government in the foreseeable future especially when the cost of upgrading rail infrastructures on both sides of the sea are taken into account.

Are there any general studies/macro-comparisons available of the relative CO2 emissions of building and operating rail networks (with large tunnel components) compared to other modes of mass transportation?

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 08:18:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If temperatures aren't like that, forget ice, but not broken-off blades. The bridge enclosure should be prety stiff to resist tons of material falling a hundred metres. With the enclosed bridge, you would have more or less the same safety, fire, and ventilation issues. (For the tunnel, it matters little if it is 5 or 100 km; as the two big Chunnel fires showed, what matters most for firefighter access and rescue is the direct vicinity of the fire, not the way there.)

As you say - cost is ultimately a Government decision, but I would see it as v. likely to be totally unaffordable for any Irish Government in the foreseeable future

There is the current budget crisis; but, you never know what governments are willing to waste money on. In the diary, I presented an example, the Koralmbahn: that little-justified project will cost the Austrian government €5.25 billion, while 3-4 other investments of a similar scale are on-going. (I estimate the Irish Sea Tunnel at €10-15 billion; for scale: the geologically much more difficult Gotthard Base Tunnel will cost around SFR9.7 billion = €6.5 billion). Another example: here in Hungary, the government maintained the big budget for highway construction even when public deficit exploded a few years back.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 02:31:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well we are currently planning on spending 54 Billion on bad bank assets (mostly loans secured on development/speculation property) optimistically valued at 47 Billion.  (plus perhaps another 12 Billion direct investment in banks to make them solvent) - so we are currently planning on "investing" a lot more money than would be required to build an Irish sea tunnel.

If by some miracle that level of value is ultimately recovered over the next 10 years we could perhaps do worse that using the proceeds to pay off some of the national debt and invest in some major infrastructural projects which reduces our long term dependence on CO2 intensive transportation.  The costs you outline don't seem outlandish, although the government has a track record of mismanaging infrastructural projects to the extent that they come in at two or three times the original budget.  

The Chunnel experience is not encouraging.  Have tunneling technologies, techniques, and cost factors improved dramatically since?  No doubt prevailing ideologies would require some PPP type funding architecture which would require a huge risk premium to attract private investment.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 07:15:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Chunnel overspending had in part financial reasons -- as I told at the start if my very first reply, if you want to avoid this, don't give the project to a private consortium that has something even worse than a bad record at managing big projects: no record and no experience at all. But yes, technologies improved; the Gotthad Base Tunnel is even longer than the Chunnel and is under up to 2000m rock with some rather difficult geology, but will cost less despite significant cost overruns too, see the figure I quoted.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 07:33:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
especially when the cost of upgrading rail infrastructures on both sides of the sea are taken into account.

  • Irish side: in a first phase, a passenger connection into Dublin's main stations, an intermodal centre, a shuttle terminal and a gauge-changing installation would be enough. Should cost less than €1 billion.

  • British side: HS2 would be built independently of any Irish Sea projects, so only Warrington(or some nearby alternative)-Holyhead would have to be counted. At around 160 km, it could cost as little as €2 billion, but surely no more than twice of that. It would carry some domestic traffic, so Ireland wouldn't have to pay for it all to get the UK into the project.

In short, the tunnel's costs dwarf that of the necessary connected projects.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 02:42:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think to make the tunnel project worthwhile, and to switch Ireland's huge dependence from road to rail, I would want to see the entire Irish rail network (such as it is) upgraded to electrical - and perhaps standardized to European gauge while they are at it.  Dublin's transport infrastructure is under a lot of pressure as it is, so I would want trains to terminate in Belfast, Derry, Sligo, Galway, Shannon, Limerick, Tralee, Cork, Waterford, Wexford etc.  Rail freight has almost died at the moment so I would be interested in the relative costs of rail container traffic compared to shipping etc.  Any rail traffic strategy would have to have  large freight component to be viable.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 07:02:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... the downside of the Steel Interstate strategy in a place the size of Ireland is that the Steel Interstate relies on marshaling time overheads at origin and destination railhead to be offset by running the time-sensitive freight at 160kph, and you just don't gain much time that way in Ireland.

OTOH, if its portside, that means that one time advantage of trucks is offset by doing ship loading/unloading directly from/onto the train.

So a grid of "Steel Interstate" model corridors that all end at a port would seem to be the most promising basic model.

If the the passenger trains are going at least 175kph, its hard to see why they'd have to go faster.

If only the standard gauge turn-outs have to be high speed turn-outs, it seems like it'd be possible to dual-gauge the track in intermediate stretches and switch out to a dedicated standard gauge section for crossing and passing loops and stretches with a larger number of turn-outs per km. Common right rail if the typical standard gauge passing loop is passing to the right.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 03:32:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ireland is a very open economy with huge import/export volumes.  The point of shifting to rail freight is not to speed transport within Ireland, but Ireland/UK Europe.  Thus the competition comparison is road plus ferry freight to UK/European mainland.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 at 06:28:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unless you carve a high-speed line across Wales from Birmingham to Holyhead

Liverpool or Warrington to Holyhead would be enough, along the North shore: that wouldn't be problematic, nor too long. On the HS2, the planned London-Warrington time would be 1h06m. The distance to Holyhead would be around 160 km, another 100 km for the tunnel and the connection in Dublin -- that 260 km would add less than an hour, so around 2h in total. That would be quite competitive with air, accounting for the airport-city commutes. But the expensive thing is the tunnel, not a North Wales route.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 09:07:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Shuttle traffic is actually declining.

There was a recession and a tunnel fire, but, actually, passenger and coach shuttle traffic grew 8% in Q3/2009 vs. Q3/2008, only truck traffic declined.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 09:20:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to wikipedia the Dublin metropolitan area is significantly smaller than the following UK metropolitan areas: London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and comparable to Liverpool and Glasgow.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 05:37:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're talking about building something several more times expensive than the Chunnel for 1/10 the population. This doesn't seem like a winning plan.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 05:42:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just putting things in perspective - the proper comparison for Dublin-Liverpool in terms of expected traffic is Liverpool-Glasgow.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 05:57:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But Liverpool-Glasgow has the advantage of having the large Manchester-Leeds hub in the middle.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 06:00:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There haven't been direct Liverpool - Glasgow trains for a good few years, suggesting demand is not enormous.
by koksapir on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 06:10:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
An alternative interpretation is that the absence of direct Liverpool-Glasgow services pushes people to other modes of transport (namely, private car, coach, or air).

How many people take the bus or fly direct between the two?

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 06:24:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In fact there are no regular direct flights from Liverpool to either Glagow or Edinburgh. Is that evidence that nobody wants to make the trip in either direction, or that a combination of public policy and business expediency has decided not to provide the service so that people who want to make the trip have to drive?

Or, maybe, if you want to have a business trat requires you to travel across the UK frequently, you have to move to Manchester or Birmingham or London.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 06:46:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you want to take the train, you can change at Preston, Wigan or Warrington, of course. Plenty people would drive - it's 3.5 to 4 hours. A check search suggests there's only a couple of direct coaches a day.

Can we take this pair of cities as representative? Is the public transport provision on the route disguised through being shared with Manchester? Are they simply at a distance which favours car travel?

Clearly it's true that for a business with regular need to travel across the UK, basing yourself at one end of the distributed population brings additional costs, not least in time, over basing yourself more centrally.

by koksapir on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 07:16:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can we take this pair of cities as representative?

I don't know, we're only talking about the 5th/6th largest metropolitan areas in the UK...

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 08:52:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's also 3.5 to 4 hours by train, with one change and over a dozen services daily.

What is it you were saying about evidence for no demand? It's not slower than driving and there's at least one train an hour during the workday.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 02:06:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ground effect aircraft can have twice the fuel efficiency for short hops, where jets waste a lot of fuel climbing to cruising altitude and descending again.

And of course they've been made as flying boats, so a dockside terminus station in Liverpool and Dublin would give central city stations on both sides.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 06:50:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nah, no ice sheet. The sea level is going to drop by >100 metres thanks to some serious geo-engineering. Dubliners will get across like Moses and the children of Israel, on dry ground.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 05:13:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nope, ice sheet. While the global average rises, the new conditions will lead the circulator will stall south of Europe so the current will be coming down from the Arctic. The new ice pushed down from the Arctic will fill in the crossing late every winter, and then by summer it'll be back to the water crossing.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 06:52:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Floating submarine tunnels?  Rather than tunnelling the seabed, make a buoyant tube and anchor with cables to a depth of say 100m deep.  It's probably cheaper than tunnelling too.
by njh on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 06:55:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Trains have significant weight, so you don't want a solution resulting in significant up-and-down movements.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 07:16:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If the tunnel has a positive buoyancy greater than the weight of the train, then the only variation in up and down will be due to the modulus of elasticity of the anchors.  The same principle in reverse makes suspension bridges work.
by njh on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 05:25:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a reason that the number of railway-only suspension bridges is almost zero; but, I submit, it could work on principle. However, questions:

  1. Are there any precedents to such a buoyant bridge-tunnel for transport?

  2. What would give the buoyancy? Something like baloons?

  3. How would the watertightness of the tubes be ensured? (Double, triple tube?)


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 03:29:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. boats and submarines?  I don't know of any archemdies tunnel in existence, but there are plenty of structures in the ocean with the same principle - oil platforms often use buoyant legs to reduce the total strength requirements.

  2. Displacement of water: if the tunnel is say 10m in diameter it displaces roughly 80m^3 per metre, which is much much more than any train weights (that would be a lot more than 80tonne axle load!), even with the tunnel itself weighing a few tonnes per metre there is far more lift available than any train would require.

  3. I think so.  We can hypothesize various simple strategies: double wall with inner pair of train tubes and outer service tube, fast closing doors every few km, automatic breach detection and autopilot system (if a breach is detected behind, accellerate away, before, decelerate and reverse at maximum rate), automatic detactment and floating in the case of severance, safety tanks where people can climb in and float to safety. etc.
by njh on Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 at 05:11:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. None of those is an example of something with a vehicle running across it, e.g. an example for mastering the vibrations of the elastic structure in practice. (I don't say it's impossible, just untested.)

  2. I don't think the tunnel would be buoyant all by its own displacement. The typical cross section of a single-track tunnel is somewhat less (c. 50 m³), but the per metre displaced water is still an order of magnitude above the per metre weight of an European train (I think you can get as high as 100 tons for 10 metres = 10 t/m in Britain [25t axleload self-emptying car for mined stuff]). However, I would estimate the tunnel walls to be much heavier. for example, the immersed tube of the Marmaray Tunnel comes in at 140 tons per metre (or 70 tons per track), and a 'double-hull', buoyed tunnel with two tubes for high-speed tracks should be heavier than that.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 at 06:13:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. I imagine there are plenty of vibrations in km tall drilling platforms.

  2. But the Marmaray is meant to sink!  As I suggested to JakeS, his (indirect) suggestion of ferrocement is very appealing, given its lightweight, toughness, and proven record with maritime applications.  There are 100 year old boats still floating in the sea.  AAC (aerated concrete) with a ferrocement outer would be even better, given its positive natural buoyancy.  We know that positive buoyancy is possible, given that there are ships that carry trains.  It's then just a question of diameter and materials choice.
by njh on Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 at 06:34:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But the Marmaray is meant to sink!

Actually, it is meant to float: before the interior is completed, just at the limit of buoyancy so that it can be towed into the right position before it is sunk to its place. Buoyancy doesn't matter once it is at the bottom and covered over.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 at 06:49:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
1) And in skycarpers and radio towers and suspension bridges and cable-stayed bridges too. But the typical vibrations and the critical components in all of these are different and need to be tested.

Ferrocement, and/or larger tube diameter for buoyancy, now that I don't see why it can't work. You should patent it :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 at 06:57:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A cubic meter of cement weighs something on the order of ten times as much as a cubic meter of water.

"A few tons per meter" is unlikely to cut it.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 at 06:13:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry for nitpicking, but
  1. cement is actually rather light, c. 1.5 t/m³;
  2. concrete is more dense, up to 2.5 t/m³;
  3. however, methinks the buoyant tunnel would be made of steel, which is much more dense than concrete: 7.8 t/m³.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 at 06:24:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
portland cement has a density of 1.44 (that is, m^3 of portland cements weighs 1.44 times that of a m^3 of water).  Concrete can go as high as 3 with very dense aggregate.  Are we talking about trainloads of cement here, because any load will be subject to the axle loading of the rails which sets an upper bound on the train linear density.

Or are we talking about the tube itself?  I was considering the tube to be made of steel alone, but now you mention it, a ferrocement design would be much lighter (steel has a density of about 8).  There are many ferrocement boats out there and ferrocement is lighter than concrete.

by njh on Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 at 06:27:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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