MEPs attack refusal of European Union cash for Felixstowe-Midlands rail freight route

The first container train to pass over the Ipswich chord rail link in Ipswich.

The first container train to pass over the Ipswich chord rail link in Ipswich. - Credit: Archant

Seven Conservative MEPs from across East Anglia and the Midlands have challenged the European Commission over its refusal of funding for a scheme which would have helped to shift millions of tons of freight from road to rail.

A bid under the European Union’s Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) programme sought an EU contribution of £86million towards a £300m package of work to increase capacity on the cross-country rail route between the Port of Felixstowe and the West Midlands.

Planned improvements include the removal of level crossings and the doubling of some sections of track to create paths for 18 more trains a day, potentially avoiding 800,000 lorry journeys a year on roads such as the A14 and the M6.

However, the bid was rejected as failing to offer sufficient “added value” at a European level, despite an earlier assessment by European Commission officials that it offered a “highly positive economic result and a clear leverage effect of EU funding”.

The MEPs, including Vicky Ford, David Campbell-Bannerman and Geoffrey Van Orden from the East of England, have now written Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc, calling for the scheme to be approved when it is eligible to be resubmitted in six months’ time.

Their letter expresses particular concern that, as applied, the rules appear to favour schemes spanning land frontiers and to put the UK at a disadvantage.

Mrs Ford said: “We are not asking for special treatment, just a fair recognition of the UK’s unique position as an island nation.”

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She added: “We hope this is just a miscalculation or a misjudgment that can soon be reconsidered. Getting such massive volumes of freight off our busy roads and on to the railways has to make sense.

“British taxpayers help fund the EU budget; we should get our fair share back.”

The route has previously received EU support for schemes including additional cranes for rail freight at the Port of Felixstowe and the new “chord” rail line in Ipswich which avoids the need for container trains between Felixstowe and the Midlands to reverse.