About to boil over?

Iceland volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupts 17 April 2010

plume goes up, planes come down

Katla – the name means kettle – is one of Iceland’s largest volcanoes. It erupts every 40-80 years, sending a plume of ash, smoke and ice high into the North Atlantic atmosphere dwarfing the Eyjafjallajökull cloud that grounded aircraft across the Atlantic in April 2010. Katla has been dormant since 1918. An eruption is long overdue.

As Fishguard Trains commenter Irishman points out in a recent comment, if and when that happens, “All sorts of things are possible” – such as refugees from Ryanair streaming to Rosslare in their thousands … or indeed transatlantic passengers from England queuing for sea crossings to Ireland, should the ash cloud close UK air space but leave Ireland unaffected. In 2010, Irishman “listened to the Icelandic president’s interview on tv and he emphasised the need for good planning for such an event. I’m not convinced that the authorities on either side of the Irish Sea have sufficiently planned for such a scenario.”

As an encouragement to good planning, Fishguard Trains now offers this link to live earthquake and eruption information from the Icelandic Met Office. This page shows the Katla volcano, covered by the massive Mýrdalsjökull glacier. To the left you can see the Eyjafjallajökull glacier and volcano that closed our airspace two years ago. The earthquake data on the map and the chart beneath it are both near real-time (red spots show earthquakes in the past four hours). So if you monitor the page, you could be the first to spot an eruption, long before anyone in Wales or Ireland knows anything about it.  Tell us quickly if you do!

7 Comments

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7 Responses to About to boil over?

  1. Rhydgaled

    There’s a bit of debate in comments on the “ADFER Abergwaun ac Wdig RESTORED Fishguard & Goodwick” post about providing capacity in the form London trains if such a high rail-sail demand event ocours.

    Of course if it happens in the next few years there will be the option of using Intercity 125s (at least on the night service, Swansea Jack has suggested there may not be sufficent availablility of IC125s for a daytime service). However, under current plans this might be more difficult after 2016/17. With GWML electrification only to Cardiff, the Intercity 125s will have to be replaced not with enviromentally friendly electric trains but with IEP bi-mode. Not only will this be a poorer option for the enviroment (the main reason I am heavily opposed to IEP bi-mode), but the IEP platform is likely to require expensive guage clearance works for each route they operate.

    The Pembroke Dock line, despite the current two summer Saturday IC125 services, is not on the list to recive IEP. That would suggest IEP being barred west of Carmarthen. Not good if London – Fishguard trains suddenly become desirable, the mainstream London – south Wales stock will be unable to fit and hence it is highly unlikely that suitable rolling stock will be found to provide Pembrokeshire – London services.

    However, if electrification proceeds to Swansea then a fleet of unpowered carriges (either the same ones currently used (or new versions of the same stock if the sleeper stock is also to be replaced), with upgrades (such as powered doors) and new electric locomotives or the Intercity225 fleet currently used on the East Coast mainline) could be used on London – Swansea trains. The unpowered vehicles would be existing stock and hence (unlike IEP) should be small enough to fit the existing infrastructure without modifications (if these ran all London – Swansea services, then the current plans for any work to accomodate the larger IEP vehicles between Cardiff and Swansea would be avoided). These trains would have an electric locomotive at the London end to power them and a driving trailer vehicle at the Swansea end. A small fleet of new/newish diesel locomotives (prefrablly recycling the bodyshells and any components with significant reliable working life left from stored class 47/57 locos), equiped with the systems required to operate with the driving trailers, would be needed too and one of these would replace the electric locomotive at Swansea for the journeys to Carmarthen and Pembroke Dock. Incidently this fleet of diesel locos would be very much smaller than the number of IEP diesel (bi-mode) sets required if the electrification to Swansea does not go ahead.

    Apart from securing the future of Pembroke Dock – London trains, this suggestion would maintain potential for extension of the daily Carmarthen – Paddington service back to Milford Haven and use of long London trains (nine carriges if the Intercity 225s are the stock used) to provide enhanced capacity at Fishguard if there are busy ferries to connect with.

    I therefore hope that all Pembrokeshire residents with an interest in rail services and the enviroment make use of the consultation (ending this month) on the new Great Western franchise to call for extended electrification to Swansea using (probably existing) trains that can fit the existing infrastructure into Pembrokeshire and make use of a diesel locomotive west of Swansea rather than carrying diesel engines all the way to London.

  2. Anthony

    I am hoping that the DFT listens to sense and goes for teh Alstom proposal which is a class 180 style body ontop of a pendolino undercarriage.

    They may be 5-6 carriage units which will work in pairs at times but they will be easy to attach to a locomotive and can work push pull.

    Now a 10 carriage train could split at Swansea and the rear 5 carriages could be hauled by a diesel locomotive from Swansea to Say Carmarthen Milford Haven/Fishguard etc.

    The argument against the IEP is heating up and most of the bidders for the newt GW franchise don’t want it particulary as it would be a very poor enviroment for passengers just think a longer carriage which is as cramped as a class 153.

    • Rhydgaled

      Why would IEP have a poorer enviroment for passengers than the Alstom unit, other than the underfloor diesel engines (which in my opinion have no place on Intercity trains) on the bi-mode? We don’t know the what the seating layout of either would be, do we?

      With the proposed assembly plant for IEP being in England, I don’t see any way to pursuade DfT that we need an alternative to IEP as a whole.

      However, we do need to pursuade DfT that bi-mode IEP should be abolished, just build more electric IEPs instead (but they won’t fit the loading guage, hence why I suggest using loco-hauled push-pull trains for Great Western IC services outside the core IEP routes).

  3. Swansea Jack

    The proposed IEP bi-mode is not what anyone in the rail industry actually wants. It is the child of certain mandarins at DafT in London. The proposed 5 coach trains made up of 26 m long vehicles will either result in a train narrower than the class 153s or will result in millions of pounds of work to clear routes for the bigger overswing the longer vehicles will cause.

    From a south Wales point of view it will result in pairs of IEPs running Paddington to Cardiff with only one 5 coach set working West to Swansea, and presumably Carmarthen. This will result in less seats West of Cardiff, at a time when there is already considerable overcrowding on the Cardiff – Swansea section of route (try getting on the 17:39 Cardiff to Milford service for example!). The retention of a number of HST 125s for West Country services and supposidly Pembroke dock services on Summer Saturdays is a major worry to me as with the West Country traffic being considerably bigger on Summer Saturdays I would fear for the continuance of the through Pembroke Dock trains.

    What the rail industry actually wants is a sort of class 180 bodyshell on top of the excellent Pendolino undercarriage on a 10 coach pure electric, made up of 23 metre long vehicles that would fit the size of the kinetic envelope of the mark III coaches used on HST. Beyond the limits of the wires would see the use of a new diesel locomotive until the wires could be extended. The additional running costs and track access charges for the heavier, diesel powered bi-mode IEP would cover the £65 million cost of wiring through to Swansea (rather than Cardiff) within about 12 to 18 months. If McNulty is true to his words bi-mode IEP which is a non-railway solution to a railway electrification issue would be binned. It will otherwise end up being (one of) the biggest white elephants in the history of Britain’s Railways, that will lumber passengers and taxpayers with inflated costs for the next 30 years, and would take away any potential of an increase in capacity for at least a generation.

    The planning authority who allowed the new Stoke Gifford depot for the IEP will be rather upset when local residents hear than instead of a quiet electric depot they will hear the nightly ritual of underfloor diesel engines undergoing test each and every night of the week!!

    In my view mapmakers should stick to making maps, and professional railway engineers should design railway vehicles!

  4. Anthony

    Agreed there Swansea jact and I suspect Angel trains etc are pushing for their proposal and trying to get the DFT to see sense although I suspect a few of them already have seen teh true cost and problems with the IEP.

    If they are afraid of upsetting Hitachi why not place an order for EMU’s for local routes around Reading etc and allow more class 319’s to be casaded elsewhere

  5. Swansea Jack

    I’d be even happier if DafT told Hitachi that they can build the same number of trains for the UK as the manufacturers outside of Japan can build for the Japanese market. Japan maintains a closed market to outside manufacturers of railway equipment.

    I’d be happy enough with some 10 coach 395 type things that were straight EMUs though.

    • Rhydgaled

      “I’d be happy enough with some 10 coach 395 type things that were straight EMUs though.”

      I agree with that, the entire Hitachi IEP order should (in my opinion) be for pure EMU trains with 8 or 9 coaches (10 coaches if they reduce the length of them from the planned 26m). Unless they drop the coach length to fit our loading guage, I would restrict these to Paddington to Bristol, Oxford, Cardiff and (maybe) Cheltenham Spa services (and the routes operated by East Coast, with class 67s dragging them from the last electrified station on the Hull, Harrogate and Lincon services and possibly to Aberdeen and Inverness too (ideally those long trips should remain LHCS operated, but the IC225 fleet (needed for Paddington – Swansea/Carmarthen/Pembrokeshire) isn’t really big enough to split between Great Western and East Coast)).

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