Union Connectivity Review: A short follow-up submission on the Irish Sea fixed link

16 March, 2021

This submission has been made to the Union Connectivity Review following publication of the Interim Report in March 2021. It focusses on just one of the areas of interest for the Commission – the Irish Sea fixed link.


There are three good reasons to consider the idea of a fixed link across the Irish Sea seriously:

  • It could give the Northern Ireland economy a major boost
  • It could help decarbonise the UK’s transport system
  • It could create new capital city inter-connections: Edinburgh-Glasgow-Belfast-Dublin (as well as London & Cardiff-Belfast).

We note that, understandably, the Interim Report says

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Greengauge 21 welcomes the National Infrastructure Commissions’ Report on Rail Needs for the North and Midlands

11 January, 2021

In June 2014, in Manchester, the leaders of six northern cities pitched their aspirations for better rail inter-connections to the wider world. The Chancellor of Exchequer was on hand to say: “the money will be found”. The new buzzword, courtesy Lord Jim O’Neil, was the ‘Northern Powerhouse’, and Transport for the North (TfN) set out to work up a suitable investment proposal for its new rail connections.

As it became clear that this entailed in effect a high-speed line from Liverpool to York, at a cost now estimated at £39bn, northern politicians were often asked: which is the priority – Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) or the northern parts of HS2 (Phase 2)? ‘We want both’, came the reply. ‘The M62 needs the M1 and vice versa and the same is true for rail.’

Under DfT guidance, so-called ‘touch-points’ were examined, places where the northern (and indeed, midland) sections of HS2 could join the existing network or NPR. But the premise

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Transport’s number one climate change resilience project

6 January, 2021

In the closing days of 2020, Dr Nicola Forsdike reminded us, in a paper written for the Rail Reform Group, (see ref 1) of an important thesis set out by Mark Casson (see ref 2).  His conclusion was that Britain’s railway network – the world’s first which today we like to celebrate as a magnificent inheritance – was in fact incredibly inefficient.

Nicola points out the typical failure to develop single hub stations in our major cities: compare and contrast with the continental European model where state-planned networks were the fashion, unlike the British private enterprise model. She cites London, Manchester and Leeds (but could have added Glasgow, Birmingham, Nottingham, Liverpool…).

But she doesn’t mention the other striking inadequacy: the tendency to

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Tavistock Okehampton Reopening Scheme announced as Devon’s ‘Green Main Line’

10 December, 2020

Greengauge 21 welcomes and endorses the Tavistock Okehampton Reopening Scheme (TORs) announced today as Devon’s ‘Green Main Line’. This is a project whose time has come, says Greengauge 21 Director Jim Steer: “it’s essential to any concept of a resilient national rail network”.

“The problem is climate change, and here it’s for real. As sea levels rise, this is the most vulnerable rail connection we have. In Italy along the Mediterranean coast, a new line has already been built inland. We need to do the same for the West Country”.

The whole of Cornwall and South and West Devon – a huge part of England – has a single rail connection that is precarious.

The railway along the coast (Dawlish-Teignmouth) is at risk from a combination of

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Levelling up to zero carbon

3 December, 2020

It all come out last week. A Budget (understandably set for one year only); a National Infrastructure Strategy (Government’s formal response to the National Infrastructure Commission’s advice from 2018); and a review of HM Treasury’s Green Book. Each of them has great significance to the transport sector, and each contains revealing insights into the post Coronavirus outlook.

For transport, the Budget was mainly about funding support for rail, bus and LRT/metros through the Covid-19 crisis. Implicit in the Treasury view is that Covid-19 will be gone after 2021/2. But you can imagine Treasury feeling a little sore about transport funding.

The National Infrastructure Strategy acknowledges that post Covid-19,

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Anglo-Scottish rail development needs joined up thinking

6 November, 2020

In setting out Scotland’s priorities as input to the Integrated Rail Plan for the English North and Midlands, the Transport Scotland (TS) submission interestingly starts with railfreight. And very relevant this is too, given the expected demand for up to 13 extra cross-border freight paths /day once the (now under construction) International Freight Park at Mossend is completed.

The challenge on the Anglo-Scottish cross-border routes is capacity; the opportunity is for more freight by rail and faster passenger services, both of which will make a significant contribution to Government carbon reduction targets. The trick is

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