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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
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