Freight companies want improvements to rail lines from Felixstowe

Freight companies hope to operate up to 47 trains a day in each direction from Felixstowe in the fut

Freight companies hope to operate up to 47 trains a day in each direction from Felixstowe in the future. Picture: NETWORK RAIL - Credit: Archant

Rail freight companies operating trains to and from the Port of Felixstowe are to step up lobbying the government and Network Rail to improve the cross-country route from the region to the midlands and north of England.

Building new track in the Trimley area last year helped to push the capacity of the Felixstowe branch up considerably – it is now able to carry 47 freight trains a day in each direction from the port to Ipswich and beyond.

However track restrictions elsewhere on the route mean it is difficult to fit that number of trains into the schedule – especially if the number of passenger trains increases. And there are still proposals to double the number of trains running from Ipswich to Peterborough to an hourly service.

Rail companies Freightliner, GB Railfreight and DB Cargo are trying to persuade Network Rail and the Department for Transport to make improvements to the rail links across the region to allow more trains to run – and take lorries off the A14.

At present there are 36 scheduled freight trains a day running in each direction from Felixstowe. Just over half of them, 19, use the cross-country link from Ipswich to Ely and Peterborough before heading to the north and midlands.

The rest travel to London and then head up the main lines to the midlands and north. One advantage of the London route is that some of the trains can be pulled by electric locomotives.

But there are limits on rail paths on the London route – and most of the expansion will have to take place on the cross country line.

The freight operators want to see Haughley Junction just north of Stowmarket doubled to allow more trains to use it, new signalling in the Bury St Edmunds area, a second track between Soham and Ely in east Cambridgeshire and a new Ely North junction to allow more trains to travel to Peterborough.

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All these changes would also benefit passenger services – the Ely North improvement would make it easier for Greater Anglia to run the hourly Peterborough service although it is unlikely to be developed by Network Rail for at least five years.

Haughley Junction could come on line quicker – it is a simpler upgrade and it is possible that work could start before 2024.

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