A14 ban for freight lorries?

RADICAL calls for an outright ban on all freight lorries using the A14 in Suffolk and for containers to be ferried out on trains instead.

Laurence Cawley

RADICAL calls have been made for an outright ban on all freight lorries using the A14 in Suffolk and for containers to be ferried out on trains instead.

The idea of ridding the A14 of freight traffic on Suffolk's key carriageway has been mooted by the Bury St Edmunds Society - and supported in part by transport chiefs at Suffolk County Council - but fiercely opposed by the region's haulage industry, which claimed tens of thousands of jobs in Suffolk would be put at risk.

Reg Sharpe, secretary of the Bury Society, said: “An initial project needs to be set up to achieve a 'night goods train system' for carrying all containers currently being transported by road to and from Felixstowe, so that within say five years all containers would be banned from the A14, and instead be moved by train.

“Computerisation of the destinations and tagging of the containers would enable the sorting and loading time for containers to be minimal, and there would be savings in transport costs as well as huge environmental benefit. Rumbling goods trains are sporadic and less noisy than constant road traffic.”

Society chairman Sarah Green said: “The railway system here is underused - it runs alongside the A14 and it just seems mad to me, it should be vastly improved. It would be such a huge advantage to get the heavy goods vehicles off the roads and onto the train.”

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Peter Butler, senior area manager of the Road Haulage Association, said there would be no advantage to ridding the A14 of freight traffic because at some stage all goods went on the road in its journey to the retailer.

He said the organisation had 243 member companies in Suffolk alone, which between them employed tens of thousands of haulage industry workers.

“It is an important part of the economy and if you did this you would not just be putting the drivers out of work but the whole surrounding industry.

“There is no way you can take freight off the road - you could reduce it by putting some of it on the rail, but all you will be doing is moving traffic from Felixstowe to Nuneaton (the nearest rail hub) because at some stage all freight has to go on the road.

“I'm not against it going on the rail where it is appropriate, but we've got a national haulage industry and we need to support it.”

Guy McGregor, roads and transport portfolio holder at the county council, said damage to the haulage industry was the major downside of such a proposal and he said it would never be possible to remove all lorries coming out of Felixstowe from the A14.

However, he maintained the idea of a Continental-inspired “inland port system”, in which ship freight is loaded straight onto trains and taken out of Suffolk towards their end destinations such as London or the West Midlands, deserved close attention.

“The idea is to ask where the ultimate destinations of the containers are, get them onto the railway wagons and shift them through. It would relieve the pressure on the land around Felixstowe. In the case of Felixstowe, I would say 99% of the goods are not needed in the immediate destination of Suffolk. The idea is rather than storing them, shifting them straight out either to the Midlands or London.

“With the pressure on the Orwell Bridge and in terms of space generally, it would make considerable sense. This is an idea worth pursuing.”