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Not only would you have to add passengers on air routes to N. England, but passengers from the rest of Ireland (Belfast, Cork, Shannon etc) to Britain.  Also, with a link up to the Eurotunnel, some displacement of air travel to Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris etc.).  A lot would depend on the relative cost and speed of train as opposed to air and Ferry passenger and car travel.

To this you could also add much of Ireland/UK/France ferry passenger traffic, and air and sea freight.  Ireland's GDP growth is again north of 6%, and the vast bulk of our trade is still with the UK, so a passenger and freight traffic equivalent to Eurostar 10 Million doesn't seem out of the question.  

The key question would be how much additional passenger/freight traffic a Dublin Holyhead rail could be expected to stimulate due to reduced cost/increased convenience of having direct links to inner city rail stations as opposed to out of town airports. (A Gatwick London rail ticket can currently cost as much as a Dublin gatwick fight ticket).

I think the argument for a Dublin Holyhead rail link would hinge on a number of factors:

  1. The cost/engineering feasibility of the project given the structure of the Irish sea bed
  2. Passenger/freight traffic volume projections
  3. The projected economic stimulus such a link would create
  4. Projected carbon emission savings
  5. Oil price trends
  6. The strategic importance of creating a "land link" between Ireland and the rest of Europe - which would leave only Cyprus and Malta without such a link.

Of course Brexit would reduce the significance of 6.  I can't see the project even moving to a feasibility stage without the EU at least part supporting it as a key strategic infrastructure and economic integration project.  In other words, it won't even get onto the political agenda unless the dominant EU political ideology moves from neo-liberalism to some form of Keynesianism.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Sep 13th, 2015 at 08:01:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I considered most of the factors you mentioned in your first three paragraphs, but I see I could have spelled them out.

  1. There was an unspoken assumption that the UK will at least finish HS2 Phase Two before the launch of the tunnel project and upgrade the Welsh north shore line in parallel with the tunnel project.
  2. If I add up the current 4 million flying between Dublin and the five London airports and the 1.7 million flying to Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham airports, I get the current size of the core market for fast travel. High-speed rail can't grab the entirety of even that (especially the part changing to overseas flights), but two-thirds would be viable, so around 4 million.
  3. Even with a Crewe Holyhead high-speed line, Dublin–London would be pretty close to the 3-hour limit below which HSR can dominate air. Cork and Limerick are currently 2 hours from Dublin by rail, and would be at 1 hour even with a HSR line. So HSR via an Irish Sea tunnel can grab only a small part of the market currently represented by the Shannon Airport and Cork Airport to London resp. northern England routes (currently around 1.5 million). Same story about Ireland to more distant UK or French or Benelux targets. If I'm generous, I add 1 million more, so 5 million total for HST to take from air.
  4. Of course, as you say, the introduction of HSR won't leave the entire market static but will boost it. The biggest factor behind such market boosts is affordability. I think that, as in the case of Eurotunnel, the Irish Sea tunnel would guarantee relatively high HSR ticket prices (compared to other HSR with the same travel distance), which will limit this boost.
  5. The convenience factor is mostly linked to the 3-hour limit (rail is competitive with faster air transport when home to airport/station travel times and waiting times are added).
  6. This comparison was limited to the air/HSR market. When considering the ferries, at the English Channel, the main rail competition is not Eurostar, but the Shuttle trains, and I imagine the Irish Sea tunnel would have piggyback shuttle trains, too. Methinks the total ferry market would be smaller than at the English Channel, but the rail competition could bite out a larger share than the Eurotunnel Shuttles, due to the time savings.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 14th, 2015 at 08:42:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks.  V. comprehensive.  You have much more experience of this sort of stuff than I have.  

However it seems to me that "the 3-hour limit below which HSR can dominate air" is an unduly harsh criterion.  The sheer convenience of being able to travel from (say) central Cork to London by train (perhaps on a sleeper) with perhaps only two stops outweighs a lot of the inconvenience of getting to airports, waiting, traveling from airports, etc. Public transport to airports in Ireland is notoriously poor.

Having said that, I would expect air carriers to up their game and compete furiously if rail travel became an option.  A lot of cross channel ferries survived the onset of Eurotunnel by becoming more competitive.  Also I have no feel for the potential volume of rail freight traffic, which is almost totally undeveloped in Ireland.  Basically the Irish rail network is almost totally strategically irrelevant at the moment, unless something like a Dublin Holyhead link changes the whole game.  

The potential for increased tourism if you could get a train direct from (say) London to Killarney strikes me as enormous however, and I would love to see an anaysis of the potential boost.  I do recall reading about an engineering feasibility study getting some v. limited EU funding not all that long ago, but have heard nothing since.  In an era of public austerity, this sort of project is simply not on the agenda.

However I would be interested in any data or sources you have on the carbon intensity of HSR as opposed to other forms of public transport. The strategic vulnerability of Ireland to international carbon prices as well as the climate change effects of same is something we simply have to address in the longer term.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Sep 14th, 2015 at 11:02:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Regarding the 3-hour limit, it is a rule of the thump, and there are longer relations that beat air, but the general trend that market share drops sharply with increasing travel time around some threshold is quite harsh indeed.
  • In France, AFAIK the longest dominated by rail is Paris–Perpignan (minimum travel time: 4 hours 50 minutes), but this is a special case (also see this analysis).
  • For Japan, check out page 6 of this pdf, which shows rail still winning two-thirds over a relation it covers in 3h 44m but a mere 10% over a 4h 47m relation.
  • For China, I lift a diagram from the OECD study also linked in the diary, with the shortest HSR travel times added, which indicates a threshold somewhere above 4 hours:

  • On the other hand, there are also routes with HSR travel time under 3 hours dominated by air. On the Madrid–Barcelona route, rail defeated air when minimum travel time was reduced from 2h 38m to 2h 30m.

Regarding an Irish Sea tunnel feasibility study, the latest I can find was by a think-tank:

'We need an underwater train to Ireland,' says think tank - BBC News

An underwater tunnel linking Wales to Ireland should be seriously considered, a transport think tank has said.

Similar to the Channel Tunnel, it has called for a new route to run between Holyhead and Dublin.

With an expected cost of around £15bn, the investment would be similar to that of the HS2 from London to Birmingham.

The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) Cymru Wales thinks the tunnel could be ready by the end of the century.

Regarding the carbon intensity of HSR, I again refer you to Railways, energy, CO2 - Part 1 and Part 2. This is another field without simple answers, because there are factors that make for differences in orders of magnitude. In the case of a super-long tunnel project, the main source of carbon emissions is not any fuel used for energy production or manufacture, but concrete, and the share of this in the carbon intensity of travel by HSR is a linear function of the lifetime of the structure and the traffic volume during its lifetime. (BTW, was "as opposed to other forms of public transport" a typo? The sensible comparison would be to rival modes of long-distance transport.)

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

by DoDo on Mon Sep 14th, 2015 at 02:11:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By "as opposed to other forms of public transport" I mean other forms of mass transport - chiefly air, sea, and road - it is not meant as an allusion to ownership. The question of what constitutes long-distance travel is is the one we are debating! Interestingly, the Dublin London distance (c. 600Km) is comparable to the Madrid Barcelona route you instance, which seems to be on the cusp of a comparative advantage for HSR over air.  That would suggest that a Dublin London HSR link would not have a huge advantage over air, and would not necessarily displace the majority of air traffic unless there was a distinct price advantage. This surprises me, because a realistic central Dublin London travel time is. c. 5 hours (30min to Dublin airport, 120 min. security, check-in and Board, 90 min taxi and flight, 60 min. London airport to city) which should be easy enough for HSR to halve.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Sep 15th, 2015 at 06:57:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
PS - I  used to commute once a week from Ireland to my West London workplace.  I could do it in 4 hours by driving straight to airport (35 min.) parking in v. expensive short term car park, running onto plane as doors were closing and getting a taxi at the other end.  Of course there could be considerable delays, especially in Winter, and it was not exactly a carbon friendly way of doing it.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Sep 15th, 2015 at 07:08:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If it's like Eurostar, you'll still need an hour for checking in for the train as well.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Sep 15th, 2015 at 07:14:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Terminology nitpick corner (it's not important for the debate but I like to put these things in order):
  • What you mean is passenger transport. The "public" in "public transport" doesn't refer to ownership, but to access: it means mass passenger transport available to the public, which covers scheduled bus, tram, metro, rail, ship and airline transport. In contrast with individual transport (which includes cars, cycling and private jets) and more exotic limited-access transport like charter flights and troop transports (I'm not sure if there is a generalised category for those, but traffic stats often differentiate).
  • I used "long-distance" in a sense common across several sub-fields of EU traffic policy, which doesn't refer to any specific distance travelled: basically, it is transport that is not primarily meant to serve commuting. Differences include how and why it can be subsidized, whether there is provision for standing passengers, and whether toilets are obligatory. In this sense, basically all flights are long-distance transport, which is obviously a notion different from "short-distance flight" (what you do on an A320) and "long-distance flight" (what you do on an A380).

For a realistic Dublin–London travel time, as gk says, you have to add waiting time due to the check-in required by UK border controls, as well as some time for travel within the cities (even if that's less than travel to the airport). I note that the travel distance would be significantly shorter than Madrid–Barcelona (only a little over 500 km), but you have to factor in that going full speed across the tunnel is unlikely: it would be technically possible to allow for 320&nsp;km/h for the bottom part (but not the ramps), but you'd save on construction costs and maintenance if you aim lower and increase safety and capacity if there is parallel shuttle and freight traffic. (The Chunnel is 160 km/h max, for the Irish Sea tunnel I think 200 km/h would be ideal.) Rail could still beat the 5 hours you surmise for air, but not by a huge margin.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Sep 15th, 2015 at 09:22:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm deliberately not referring to exclusively passenger traffic as, without including freight, I don't think the volumes have much chance of being economic.

The difference between medium distance and long distance, for me, in this debate, is the point at which air travel has an advantage over HSR in terms of consumer preferences for a given price point. Even short haul flights don't allow standing room, but that is for safety rather than distance reasons.

There are no border controls between the UK and Ireland which maintain a "Common Travel Area" and therefore no reason for lengthy security check delays on check-in.  I hadn't realized Eurostar require a 1 hour check in period, which seems to me to rather defeat the purpose of HSR.


Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Sep 15th, 2015 at 12:31:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Since I just updated my spreadsheet, here is the evolution of market shares on the Madrid–Barcelona route:

While passing the 50% barrier was connected to the travel time reduction in late 2011, the ticket pricing reform of February 2013 had an even stronger effect, pushing rail market share above 60%.

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

by DoDo on Sun Sep 20th, 2015 at 06:19:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 29th, 2015 at 06:19:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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