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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 ]

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