Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Ice Train - to Bering Tunnel and Shanghai?

The Chris Tarrant Channel 5 show “Extreme Rail Journeys” kicked off a new series with the Alaskan Ice train wending its way through avalanches and polar bears to the Arctic Circle.

The programmes are always interesting – the previous series showcasing the Kwai railway through Thailand and Myanmar - and this week the train route through Argentina and Patagonia, worth a separate article given the UK involvement in the Argentine railways and more recent decline.

Also the Argentine Train of Clouds and next week the Cape2Cairo route.

Last week’s Alaskan episode showcased just the most astonishing scenery and the incredible story of the railway being built through that wilderness before World War One with nothing more than pick and shovel and the occasional bit of dynamite.

A story as astonishing as the building of the Kwai railway through the jungles of Thailand and Myanmar with thousands of Allied POW deaths and 100k Asian labourers deaths.

But shouldn’t the Alaskan Train mark the beginning of the Bering Tunnel Route? The railway wends its way from the Canadian-USA border through Seward port to Fairbanks. A modicum of infrastructure would be needed for the last few hundred miles to the Bering Strait.

Here in East Kent we’ve seen the power of Climate Change storms with last winter’s destruction of the Dover railway alongside the Channel. And the astonishingly rapid repairs and even automated track-laying machines by the Dept of Transport, SouthEastern Rail and Network Rail.

And a road-rail tunnel no more complex(!) than the Channel Tunnel here in Kent would link not just Alaska with Vancouver and New York but also Santiago in the Americas. For the overland route from Vancouver to Shanghai would then be tantalisingly close.

Russia has already laid down detailed plans for a Siberian road, and the Trans-Siberian Railway is near and already links Vladivostock and Beijing and Shanghai through to Moscow, Rotterdam and Madrid.

The Bering Tunnel – along with the Gibraltar Tunnel and completion of the Cape2Cairo and Berlin2Basra routes – would draw down the curtain on the divisions formed from the two world wars and at last fully integrate the global economies for greater peace and prosperity.

The shift of economic growth to Asia in the 21st century would allow hispeed rail to knit together the Americas and Europe. The vagaries of Climate Change storms or typhoons and tides would be smoothed away for 24/7 rail.

Already the excess in global shipping and mega-tankers has seen the collapse of South Korea’s huge shipping line, Hanjin, and forecasts that 20 shipping lines will be reduced to 8, with billions of dollars and thousands of jobs lost in the next decade.

Certainly even more automation of mega-tankers and ports will further reduce job opportunities and displace then to rail hubs and end the monopoly of the Suez and Panama Canlas as trade bottlenecks.

The Saudi National Plan for 2030 also factors out any growth in oil making the Gulf and Suez somewhat redundant.

And why take containers off a railway at the port, to put them on a ship to another port, and then take them off, and put them back onto a railway? Not when you can put them on a railway to any part of the globe, and with day or night constant running on rails.

The Bering Tunnel would mark the end of the beginning of a global economy functioning as smooth as silk?


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