Category Archives: Non-waterway

Motorbikes: WORLD EXCLUSIVE!

Today our intrepid reporters can EXCLUSIVELY REVEAL that, between 10.00am and 11.00am on 2 January 2015, four motorbikes passed along the M7 between Junctions 27 Birdhill and 28 Castletroy.

Who knew? Well, Seamus Coffey, obvs: he used the data [well, not actually that precise piece of info, which is exclusive to here] on his excellent Economic Incentives blog, a voice of sanity in a world of spin.

But why not check the data for your own favourite stretch of National Roads Authority route? You can open it in Excel, produce graphs, select vehicle types, change the intervals: endless entertainment.

Isn’t Economics interesting?

Sorry, Longford

Waterways Ireland’s Feasibility Study into the Restoration of the Longford Branch of the Royal Canal is available for download [7 PDFs: main report + 6 appendices]. Skip straight to page 59:

6.5 Recommendation

Given the current financial climate and because of the associated costs, environmental issues and uincertainty regarding planning approval it is not recommended to pursue this project any further at this time.

The recent work undertaken in regard to the shared walkway/cycleway has protected the asset as a publicly owned recreational amenity and it is recommended that any outstanding property issues be resolved and finalised in order to complete the protection of the asset.

I hope that admirable recommendation survives the pre-election period.

By the way, there’s a snail ….

Saunderson’s Sheugh

The Minister for  Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht [who is also a Fine Gael TD for Cavan–Monaghan] spoke at the meeeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht on 25 November 2014. She said:

In addition to progressing North-South co-operation, my key priority is progressing the first stage of the Ulster Canal project from upper Lough Erne to Castle Saunderson, near Belturbet, County Cavan. I am working on this with the Government and other key partners, including the North-South Ministerial Council and Waterways Ireland. […]

It sounds, then, as if the minister intends to get work started on the Clones Sheugh, but only as far as Castle Saunderson, where there is a scouting establishment. The route from Quivvy Lough (location of the Quivvy Marina) is along the Finn River; the first 5.5 km of the route would be in the river and the last 8.5 km to Clones in a canal. The route to Castle Saunderson would, I imagine, require dredging and the removal of rocks as well as work on [or replacement of] Derrykerrib Bridge [I have not read all the details].

It would, of course, be faster to get there by road, but no doubt lots of people will travel from Foreign Parts for the excitement of seeing Castle Saunderson from the water and paying tribute to the memory of a stout Orangeman and founder of the Irish Unionist Alliance.

No mention of the treasure-hunting group who are to find the money, but there’s an election in the offing so money won’t be a problem. Until afterwards.

Quivvy to Castle Saunderson [OSI ~1840]

Quivvy to Castle Saunderson [OSI ~1840]

The minister also said:

Regarding the Ulster Canal, which stretches from upper Lough Erne to Castle Saunderson, we hope to get the project started on that section because that is the one part of the inland waterway system that has not been developed. If we get that done, the Ulster Canal will connect into Lough Neagh. That means we will have a complete network of waterways in Ireland, which is very important. It is also a cross-Border project, and there is a peace dividend in terms of that project. It is very important in terms of cross-Border relationships. It is one shovel-ready project that can be progressed.

The minister said that “a complete network of waterways in Ireland […] is very important”. She did not say why and I can think of no possible economic justification for the creation of such a “network”. Nor is it clear what the “peace dividend” is. But the phrase that evoked most terror is “shovel-ready project”, which I take to mean something that might buy votes in the next election.

The minister’s predecessor, Éamon Ó Cuív, a Fianna Fáil TD for Galway West, said:

I welcome the Minister’s continuation of the work on the Ulster canals. There was quite a bit of work done on that in my time and I was very anxious to see it progress on a step-by-step basis. I was going to bring it to Clones, I am not sure whether the place the Minister mentioned is further or nearer than that.

The minister interjected:

It is not as far as Clones. We will start it anyway and we will get it there.

And Mr Ó Cuív continued:

I take the view that even if she were to get it half a mile, we should just nibble away at it until we get it finished. It is of strategic national importance and if we could connect Coleraine, where I was the other day and where my poor car is getting mended, all the way down the coast through Lough Neagh down to Shannon and back up the canals, it would be a fantastic facility for the island. I will not be heard complaining in any way that it is in the Minister’s constituency – that just happens to be a happy coincidence in this case.

Actually, although both Quivvy Marina and Castle Saunderson are in the Free State, most of the River Finn route is in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

It seems that I must cease to speak of the Clones Sheugh: it’s Saunderson’s Sheugh. I suppose that, if reaching Castle Saunderson were enough to shut up the Shinners, who seem to be madly keen on Sheughery for some reason that is hidden from me, that might be a bargain: it would certainly be better than going all the way to Clones.

My OSI logo and permit number for website

 

Euroloot

I see there’s a new scheme for Euroloot: a €300 billion investment fund to save the European economies. Actually it seems there is only €5 billion in real money and Constantin Gurdgiev is properly scathing. It will be interesting to see whether Ireland can make the Clones Sheugh fit within the criteria.

Maritime history

There is to be a maritime history conference in Cork next weekend:

Maritime History Conference to take place in University College Cork 28/29 November

Maritime History Conference‘A safe place for ships’: Cork, Ireland, Europe and the Sea

University College CorkFriday, 28 November – Saturday, 29 November

Main Campus: Electrical Engineering BLDG, L-1, UCC

Details here; h/t AD.

 

A concession to new technology

It appears that these new-fangled railways are here to stay, displacing the passage-boat and the mail-coach, the Scotch cart and the lumber boat.

Accordingly, I have rearranged my small number of railway-related pages under a top-level heading of their own.

I have added a new railway page, about the Lundy Island Railway and Colonization Company, from the Dublin Evening Mail of 2 May 1845. Gerald M King has produced stamps for Lundy, including Railway Parcel Stamps, but it is not clear whether they depict any of the engines or rolling stock described in the Mail and there are few other sources of information about the railway.

I have tried to explain as many of the references as I could, but some are still obscure to me and I would welcome comments from those expert in Irish religious conflicts of the 1840s (as well as those knowledgeable about railways and other technology of the period).

 

The uses of lunatic asylums

Finally, as to the want of cleanliness of which you complain — although I do not pretend to say that the Irish peasantry are as fond of order as the English, yet here also we can discover how much is owing to want of education and early training.

If you visit the union workhouses, the prisons, the lunatic asylums, and other public institutions in Ireland, you will perceive that, under proper instruction and discipline, Irish men and women can be cleanly, and can keep rooms and houses as orderly and neat as any other people.

The fact is, that the Celtic race appear to stand in need of training and discipline, for the acquirement of those habits which seem to come naturally to the Saxon; but with such training, and the stimulus of suitable encouragement, or even of a kind word, the Irish may be made all that their English neighbours can desire.

Edward Newenham Hoare The English Settler’s Guide through Irish Difficulties; or, a hand-book for Ireland, with reference to present and future prospects Hodges and Smith, Dublin; John W Parker, London 1850

Fuel consumption

The Dublin Monitor of 3 December 1839 quoted the celebrated Dublin-born adulterer and polymath Dionysius Lardner [who said that Victorians were prudish?] as saying

A train of coaches, about eighty tons, and transporting 230 passengers, with their luggage, has been taken from Liverpool to Birmingham, and from Birmingham to Liverpool, the trip each way taking about four hours, stoppages included. The distance between these places by the railway is ninety-five miles.

This double journey of 190 miles is effected by the mechanical force produced in the combustion of a quarter of a ton of coke, the value of which is 6s.

To carry the same number of passengers daily between the same places by stage coaches, on a common road, would require twenty coaches, and an establishment of 3,800 horses, with which the journey in each direction would be performed in about twelve hours, stoppages included.

Dr Lardner on the Steam Engine

The fuel consumption figure seemed odd to me, because I had recently read about the fuel consumed by a steamer on the Shannon in 1851. This was evidently one of the two screw steamers put to work by the Grand Canal Company in 1851, on which Sir John MacNeill conducted the experiments described here.

A luggage boat propelled by steam, on the screw principle, has been for the first time placed on the waters of the Shannon between Shannon Harbour and Limerick, taking in Portumna, Dromineer, Williamstown [probably Hollands], Killaloe, and the river and canal, to the terminus lock at Limerick.

As a specimen of aquatic architecture, the boat presents no very peculiar or striking features; it is built of iron, with a flush deck; it is capable of carrying about thirty tons, and the rate at which it goes on the canal, is about three and a half miles an hour, whether singly, or as a tug boat with two or three heavy lighters after it; whilst on the broader waters of the river, it is capable of going at a rate of seven and a half miles an hour!

This phenomenon may be explained by the fact that on the canal, which is comparatively narrow, there is no expansion of the waters displaced by the boat, whilst there is always a considerable swell raised about the prow, causes which conspire to retard her speed, and which do not operate when she is on the river.

The expense of working this boat is considerably less than that of the ordinary boat drawn by horses. A ton of coal supplies the engine between Limerick and Shannon Harbour; whereas the horsing alone of a boat between Limerick and Killaloe amounts to something about ten shillings.

The experiment, however, has not been sufficiently tested; and there is some doubt that it may succeed according to the expectations of its projectors. Just now several industrious persons with horses are employed on the canal: and it is to be hoped that in this season of dearth and destitution, no hasty means will be adopted to force them for subsistence on overgrown poor rates.

Limerick Reporter 27 May 1851

The Limerick Reporter article does not say, and I cannot determine, whether this was  Towing steamer No 2 [Appendix 3 in Ruth Delany The Grand Canal of Ireland David and Charles, Newton Abbot 1973], the twin-screw vessel which MacNeill, confusingly, called the No 1 Boat, or the single-screw Towing steamer No 1, which MacNeill called the No 2 Boat.

But I was surprised that the railway train could do 190 miles on a quarter ton of coke while the steamer required a ton for the (roughly) 54 miles from Shannon Harbour to Limerick.

On consulting the online Gutenberg version of the seventh edition of Dionysius Lardner The Steam Engine explained and illustrated; with an account of its invention and progressive improvement, and its application to navigation and railways; including also A Memoir of Watt Taylor and Walton, London 1840, I found that there were some differences between that and the Dublin Monitor‘s version:

A train of coaches weighing about eighty tons, and transporting two hundred and forty passengers with their luggage, has been taken from Liverpool to Birmingham, and back from Birmingham to Liverpool, the trip each way taking about four hours and a quarter, stoppages included. The distance between these places by the railway is ninety-five miles.

This double journey of one hundred and ninety miles is effected by the mechanical force produced in the combustion of four tons of coke, the value of which is about five pounds.

To carry the same number of passengers daily between the same places by stage-coaches on a common road, would require twenty coaches and an establishment of three thousand eight hundred horses, with which the journey in each direction would be performed in about twelve hours, stoppages included.

So 240 passengers, not 230; 4¼ rather than 4 hours — and most significantly 4 tons of coke, costing about £5, rather than ¼ ton costing 6s [£0.3].

Did the Dublin Monitor get it wrong — and, if so, why and how? Or were the lower figures in some earlier edition of Lardner’s work?

 

 

The agency model

I have been told that, until recent years, travel agents in Germany and elsewhere would buy packages of weeks on Irish hire-boatsa and then sell them on to their own clients. I have also been told that this “agency model” ceased to be used [or became less used], perhaps because of the growth of internet booking. And it has been suggested that this was one of the factors in the decline of the Shannon hire-boat trade, to which I have repeatedly drawn attention [most recently here].

I do not know whether this phenomenon has been documented or formally studied. If it has, I would be grateful if any reader can point me to the documents or studies. I would also welcome other Comments on the proposition.

Packaging and marketing

I mention it now because, when launching the Shannon Blueway project, the waterways minister Heather Humphreys said:

The launch of the Blueway will allow local businesses [to] capitalise on an increase in demand for transport, equipment hire, accommodation and entertainment.

I think that the Blueway is an excellent idea, but I am concerned about whether small local companies will be able to package and market it effectively to overseas tourists. If the long-established cruiser-hire-firms were or are finding effective marketing difficult, why would (say) a canoe- or bicycle-hire-firm in Drumshanbo find it any easier?

Marketing to anglers

There was an interesting discussion at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications about “Depletion of Inland Fish Stocks and Impact of Estuary Poaching: Inland Fisheries Ireland” on 22 October 2014. Note in particular the contributions of Dr Ciaran Byrne from 10:25 onwards about how Inland Fisheries Ireland markets Irish angling to overseas anglers.

What struck me was not that IFI uses any particularly magical marketing methods but that it is dealing with a well-defined interest group: people who are committed to a particular activity and have invested heavily in it (buying rods and stools and nets and umbrellas and maggots and whatever else anglers use).

Identifying potential customers

Anglers form one segment of the market for inland waterways holidays, but the task of selling to other segments is harder if they lack a single compelling interest. Hence, no doubt, those rather demented attempts by Fáilte Ireland or Tourism Ireland to categorise potential customers as ‘Sightseers and Culture Seekers’, ‘Family & Loved Ones’, ‘Relaxers’ and ‘Outdoor Actives’. None of their interests strikes me as being exactly compelling: there are several countries where you can relax, engage in outdoor activities or look at sights.

What you really need is obsessive customers: folk, with money to spare, who are really interested in one thing. Then you entice them to your area and take their money from them: not, as Brian Ború would have done, by hitting them over the head and stealing it, but by selling them overpriced goods and services.

Lough Derg

If you don’t have obsessive customers, who are compelled by their inner urges to dangle maggots in your waters (or whatever else turns them on), then you might try offering a compelling attraction: something that is so interesting that folk put it on their to-do lists. Unfortunately, as Fáilte Ireland’s Lakelands Lough Derg Roadmap [PDF, 6.7MB; well worth reading] admits,

Lough Derg does not have suffient key attractions that act as a draw to the area.

The same thought has often struck me. As you drive around the lake, you see signs pointing towards it. But suppose you’re a casual tourist who hasn’t already booked an activity. When you get to the lake, about the only thing you can do is look at the water (which becomes less interesting after a while) or at the jolly people enjoying themselves on boats (ditto).

You can, in some places, go to a pub or eatery, but you don’t need to come to Ireland to do that. Or you can paddle. If you fish, you can fish, but I’m trying to think of things for non-anglers. In Killaloe, you can take a boat trip; in Dromineer, you can hire a sailing boat; in Mountshannon, you can visit Holy Island. But there is nothing you would come to Ireland for: nothing you can’t do in other places.

Roadmap remedies

The Roadmap proposes these remedies:

The following three key tourism products are proposed:

  • A Discovery Point and Trailhead at the Portroe lookout
  • A Lough Derg Canoe/Kayak trail
  • An enhanced offering and facilities at University of Limerick Activities Centre (ULAC).

Two additional tourism products are proposed:

  • Portumna eco-park (masterplanning required)
  • Publications to promote and support active enjoyment of Lough Derg and surrounds.

There is, alas, another set of categories of potential visitors:

The three market segments identified with the best potential for delivering international visitors to Lough Derg have been identified as Curiously Cultural, Great Escapers and Nature Lovers.

Other, less exploitable, market segments are identified too, but I can’t bring myself even to name them.

Finding the punters

I’d hate it to be thought that I was a marketing expert, but it seems to me that this segmentalisation is coming at things from the wrong end. In effect, it’s saying “We have these things; what sort of person might be induced to buy them?” Then you give each of those sorts of person a category and say that you’ve found your market.

But compare that with what the fisheries folk do. They can identify magazines that anglers read, maybe (for aught I know) television programmes they watch, trade shows they visit. Identification is easy: the titles will include words like “fishing” or “angling”.

But what magazines — other than those on the top shelf — have “Curiously Cultural” or “Nature Lovers” in the title? How do you track down “Great Escapers”? It seems to me that these categories might help you to tailor a message that is broadcast to large audiences through mass media: in such cases it doesn’t matter if you appeal to only 1% of the audience, provided that that audience is large enough. However, that’s not an option available to those with small budgets: they need cheaper marketing through channels that will provide much higher returns.

Small operators

And that’s where we come back to the fact that most of the potential tourism operators around Lough Derg are pretty small. Who is going to put together packages of activities that will appeal to the curiously cultural? I’m interested only in filling my B&B and you’re interested in hiring out bicycles. I’m happy to refer customers to you and vice versa, but are we going to get together to provide packages and to share our marketing budgets? There is a Lough Derg Marketing and Strategy Group, but it seems to be dominated by representatives of public sector bodies, and there is a limit to what they can do.

To compete on a European scale, what’s really needed is a large commercial organisation. I suggest, therefore, that the best thing to do would be to get Goldman Sachs to advise on how Lough Derg might be privatised.

Second-best would be the formation of a tourism cooperative.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Royal Canal water supply

On 26 November 2012 I noted that

The Royal Canal water supply applications have been approved by An Bord Pleanala. There were two separate applications […] but they were in effect treated as one.

There were conditions attached, but I concluded that

If I remember correctly, the amount of water available from Lough Ennell will not always provide enough (eg in a dry season) to keep the canal full. Still, this is a significant advance for Waterways Ireland and for Royal Canal enthusiasts.

So here we are, almost two years later, and the work of providing a supply from Lough Ennell to the Royal Canal, reckoned to be about a five-month job, has doubtless been long completed, no?

No.

The work has not yet started and Waterways Ireland will be lucky if it gets done within the next year.

As I understand it — and if, Gentle Reader, you have more information, do please leave a Comment below (your name can be kept out of public view if you like) — there are three sources of delay:

  • first, I understand that there is a technical issue about one of the conditions attached to the approval; it is felt that the condition is unworkable, but that getting it changed might take some time. I presume it’s one of the conditions 2(a) to 2(d) that I quoted two years ago and, looking at the proposed orders published in the press [PDF], I suspect it might be the requirement to maintain the lake level at or above 79.325 mOD Malin Datum. However, I don’t really know
  • second, Waterways Ireland took over Clonsingle Weir, at the outlet from Lough Ennell, by Compulsory Purchase. Owners of mills, who generate electricity from the Brosna, have submitted claims for compensation. I understand that an arbitration hearing, lasting four days, is scheduled to be help in May 2015
  • third, responsibility for the scheme has moved from Westmeath County Council to Irish Water. Which may have other things on its mind.

Irish Water has published its proposed Capital Investment Programme [PDF] but Appendix 1, the Investment Plan Project Summary, is in a separate file [PDF]. Category B is headed Review Scope and Commence Construction and it includes

Mullingar Regional Water Supply Scheme (G) … Lough Ennell Abstraction.

I can’t work out what “(G)” means. A few items are so marked; a few others are marked “(H)”; most items have neither.

The Capital Investment Programme [CIP] document says:

 The CIP is dominated by contractual commitments entered into previously by Local Authorities, and which have now transitioned to Irish Water. In the 2014-2016 period, Irish Water will fund these contracts to completion and bring forward programmes and prioritised projects to commence. At the same time, it will progress a large portfolio of projects that are at the planning and design stage, reviewing their scope, budgets and, where appropriate, timing to favour maximising the performance of the existing assets through intensified capital maintenance that might allow deferral of major capital investment.

Emphasis mine. So that raises the possibility that Irish Water will decide not to fund the abstraction scheme but will rather opt to pay for continued pumping.

It is, of course, quite possible that I have misunderstood these difficult matters, so I will be glad to hear from anyone with better information.

Incidentally, reviewing Irish Water’s documents suggests to me that there are people there who know what they are doing and who have the expertise to manage large and complex operations. That differentiates them from the politicians in government and opposition, few of whom (as far as I can see) have any experience of running anything more complex than a parish social.