Reports by Paul Geater
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
HOPES that EDF will finance a major bypass for four villages on the A12 between Saxmundham and Wickham Market have been all but dashed.
MAJOR rail improvements are planned to try to ensure as much of materials needed for Sizewell C do not have to arrive on Suffolk’s already-congested roads.
The freight-only Sizewell branch from Saxmundham station on the East Suffolk line is likely to be extended to the construction site.
The actual route of this extension has to be decided – the shortest route would come off the existing line in Leiston but there could be a longer extension avoiding the built-up area of the town altogether.
At the height of construction four or five trains a day could be travelling to Sizewell – sharing most of the route with passenger trains on the East Suffolk line.
Because the line is more intensively used than in the past, EDF will pay for a new passing loop to be built at Campsea Ashe, which will also need the restoration of the second platform that was demolished in the 1980s.
EDF will also look at whether it needs to improve the four level crossings on the Sizewell branch – at present they have to be opened and closed by a second crew member on the infrequent freight trains that take used fuel from Sizewell A.
If there are more trains, safety rules could require modern crossings to be installed.
As well as rail, heavy equipment for the power station is also likely to be brought to Sizewell by sea – as happened during the construction of Sizewell B.
A new jetty would be built on the coast allowing the heaviest equipment to be rolled straight off ships – however unlike the temporary jetty created for the construction of Sizewell B, elements of this could be retained permanently because it might occasionally be necessary to bring in heavy equipment.
The company’s transport strategy estimates that the station will see between 100 and 300 HGVs a day arriving at the site during peak construction.
But that will increase traffic along the A12 south of Sizewell by only 5-15% which, it says, is not enough to justify the construction of a major bypass around Farnham, Stratford St Andrew, Little Glemham and Marlesford.
It does, however, propose road improvements at Farnham – including the possible construction of a short 1km bypass removing traffic from the tight bend in the middle of the village.
However, this would do nothing to ease the traffic problems of the other villages.
Sizewell C project manager Angela Piearce said the company would still be prepared to talk to the county council about improving the road network, but felt the bypass was not necessary so far as the power station construction was concerned.
She said: “We are looking to bring in much of the heavy equipment by sea or by train rather than on the road. There will always be some equipment that has to arrive by road, but there should not be enough to justify the major bypass.”
A short by-pass for Farnham would cost several million pounds.
The company plans to create two park and ride sites for workers, allowing them to leave their cars and be driven to the site – further easing congestion around Sizewell and Leiston.
The two 1,000-space sites would be built on the A12 to the north and the south of Leiston.
One will be in the Darsham/Yoxford area, possibly beside Darsham railway station, and one near Woodbridge or Wickham Market.
The southern park and ride site could also be used as a lorry park, holding vehicles before they complete their journey to the site – another option for this is for the company to develop a new lorry park on the A14 south of Ipswich which could double as a “stack site” to hold lorries when the Port of Felixstowe is closed.
The news about the four villages will come as a body-blow to Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Coastal who issued a demand for the work to be financed by EDF just hours before the consultation document was published.
The councils released three demands:
n New local jobs and businesses and a lasting legacy of opportunity and growth.
n The highest possible environmental building standards, as the development is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
n The construction of a “four villages bypass,” taking increased A12 traffic away from Marlesford, Little Glemham, Farnham and Stratford St Andrew.
Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member responsible for roads, transport and planning, said: “The county council recognises that the development of Sizewell C is necessary to meet the country’s energy needs and indeed supports its construction.
“However, it is important that Suffolk benefits from the development, both in terms of the local economy including improvements to local transport infrastructure and the protection of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in which Sizewell C will be situated.”