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Ipswich/Felixstowe: New rail chord ready for first trains

18:17 25 March 2014

Transport minister Stephen Hammond is shown the new Ipswich Chord.

Transport minister Stephen Hammond is shown the new Ipswich Chord.

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The first test trains are due to run over the new Ipswich Chord from Monday.

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The chord – which links the Felixstowe branch with the north-facing main cross-country line to Peterborough, the north and midlands – will be fully opened for cross-country trains from March 31.

Its opening will cut journey times by between 45 and 75 minutes as trains no longer have to reverse in the Ipswich freight yard.

Work on the £35 million project started in 2012, and received a major grant from the European Union to help finance the scheme.

Rail minister Stephen Hammond visited the site to see the progress of the work. He said: “This is very important for Felixstowe, this region and the country as a whole. It will make it much easier to get goods to and from the port.

“It also has a very important environmental benefit because it should take many more lorries off the roads.”

Some freight trains will continue to use the main line south towards London, but the growth in rail traffic from the port will all be taken up on the cross-country main line which has been upgraded to take larger containers.

As well as the Ipswich chord, there have been other improvements to bridges and extra track near Ely. There could be further investment in the route in future years.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said: “This small section of track will make a big difference to Ipswich and Suffolk commuters.

“The new direct link to Felixstowe means that as many as 24 freight trains can pass smoothly and efficiently to and from the port.

“The benefits do not stop there. The new Ipswich chord will take 750,000 lorries of the roads by 2030. This will dramatically reduce congestion for drivers on the A14 – something that has been estimated to cost our economy as much as £80 million each year.”

East of England Labour MEP Richard Howitt has also welcomed the new chord – although he was disappointed that his party’s contribution had not been recognised.

He said: “Although I am disappointed that Network Rail chose not to invite me today as one of the key MEPs who lobbied successfully to get the rail improvements being celebrated today, I remain satisfied that businesses and commuters will enjoy better rail journeys in the future thanks partially to Labour action in the European Parliament.

“The Government was happy to accept the European money and it is ungracious for them to seek short term political credit for a lot of investment in which we all played a part.”

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4 comments

  • If one chord takes x years to build and costs £y million, the mind boggles at the thought of HS2.

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    Blackeye

    Friday, March 21, 2014

  • You only need to look at the homepage of londongateway.com to see that their major selling point is accessability. Enter the postcode of any major city in the North, Midlands and West of England and they all generate a saving both on time and distance by road and they specficially compare to Felixstowe to show the possible savings. And that is ignoring the hours, and hundreds of pounds, extra added to a journey when there is a problem on the bridge. Given the amount of time it would take to complete the northern bypass it's probably already too late in the long term.

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    Esco Fiasco

    Tuesday, March 25, 2014

  • Due to the small size of the UK it will always be a road, not rail, driven delivery system. And despite much talk of increasing rail capacity, the fact is that Britain's premier container port is still served by a single track line between Ipswich & Felixstowe (with no indication that this will change) ! Despite Felixstowe's status as Britain's foremost container port, there has been little new investment in roads (or rail) since 1982. There is for the first time serious competition from the new London Gateway terminal, a port as big at Felixstowe on the north bank of the Thames, just 9 miles to motorway connections. For the major midlands distribution hubs, our truckers have 120 miles before they meet motorway (with bottle necks at Orwell Bridge, Cambridge, Huntingdon, M6. The future prosperity of Suffolk relies on the A14, so a Northern bypass is not a wish, but an absolute necessity for Ipswich & Suffolk's future prosperity. Around 10,000 Ipswich & Suffolk jobs rely on these trucks getting through. When the bridge opened in 1982, 300,000 TEUS of cargo crossed the Orwell, now its heading towards 4 million. 40% of the country's entire container freight crosses the Orwell today. What Ipswich, Felixstowe, Suffolk and the whole country needs is a Northern bypass for Ipswich. Without it growth at the port of Felixstowe will decline and business will move elsewhere.

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    Mark Ling

    Friday, March 21, 2014

  • But the 24 trains a day will NOT move smoothly to and from the Port, mainly because the Port has steadfastly refused to honour its long-standing commitment to double the branch to Felixstowe. Everything Mark Ling says is correct, we desperately MUST have the Ipswich Northern by-pass. But we must also have track doubling on the rails to Felixstowe. Both Road and Rail are near saturation and future prospects for the whole area are definitely in jeopardy from London Gateway, especially if our transport infrastructure is piecemeal.

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    Disbeliever

    Friday, March 21, 2014

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