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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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