Tunnel visions and the romance of the railways in Scotland

Figcaption Tunnel Visions And The Romance Of The Railways In Scotland
Posted at: Author: Rain TV UK

I an Jack (A tunnel linking Scotland and Northern Ireland? Fantasy has replaced British modesty, 19 February) mentioned “a vast munitions dump on the seabed” on the route of the proposed rail tunnel between Scotland and Northern Ireland. The dump lies in the Beaufort Dyke, a deep trench in the North Channel. I reported its presence nearly 30 years ago for BBC News. The Ministry of Defence originally told me that it had dumped munitions there since the end of the second world war, that it knew what they were and that they totalled around 100,000 tonnes.

Some months later, with British Gas by then planning an undersea pipeline there, the MoD rang me with an update. It had been using the dyke since the end of the first world war, it said. It did not know what munitions were down there, but the total was about a million tonnes. I’d fancy my chances of crossing the North Channel in a tunnel as little as on a bridge.
Alex Kirby
Environment correspondent, BBC News, 1987-95

• A tunnel between Galloway and Northern Ireland is not as ridiculous as Ian Jack suggests. First, the gauge difference need not be an obstacle. Through trains have for decades connected France and Spain with a change of gauge at the border. Second, it is not London that would ever make this isle’s side of the case for the tunnel, but Glasgow. Glasgow-Aberdeen is a thriving route of similar length that has not carried London traffic south of Dundee since before I was born.

The saving of two changes of transport mode would transform Glasgow-Belfast into a similar route, with Ayr serving as Stirling’s counterpart. There could even be overnight Aberdeen-Dublin trains.
Charles Gilman
Mitcham, London

• A tunnel between Northern Ireland and Scotland may not be complete fantasy. Based on Alpine tunnelling costs, it could cost around £30bn – about a third of the cost of HS2 and much better value for money.
Martin Mansell
Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire

• Ian Jack, in his wonderfully elegiac piece about railways in the south of Scotland, refers to The Thirty-Nine Steps. He could also have mentioned another novel set in that area where railways played a crucial part: The Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L Sayers, published in 1931, where much of the plot hinges on train times. As she says in the foreword, “all the trains are real trains”, and my copy features a detailed railway map of those now sadly long-gone lines.
Ian Arnott
Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

• The Galloway railway line may be abandoned and its stations merely memories, but not all its glories are lost. My father, a regular passenger at New Galloway station (locally claimed for Richard Hannay’s initial arrival in Galloway in The Thirty-Nine Steps), managed to secure two of the station lights when the line closed. They now shine out over very different landscapes at my sister’s house in Sussex and ours in Devon.
Sally Jaine
Blackawton, Devon

• Ian Jack refers to “a scheme to link Scotland (or Great Britain as it still is) to Northern Ireland”. Let me reassure him that, unless the SNP has radical plans indeed, Stranraer will continue to be on the island of Great Britain for the foreseeable future. I should add that I’m very pleased to see Ian Jack back in the Guardian on Saturdays. I hope he’s here to stay.
Philip Bromberg
Wembley, London

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