Call for rail freight line improvement
By Richard SmithMODEST, but urgently-needed improvements could cut four hours from the journeys for freight from Felixstowe port to the Midlands.The Haven Gateway Partnership – which represents Felixstowe, Harwich, Ipswich and Mistley ports – is campaigning for the Felixstowe to Nuneaton rail route to be upgraded.
By Richard Smith
MODEST, but urgently-needed improvements could cut four hours from the journeys for freight from Felixstowe port to the Midlands.
The Haven Gateway Partnership - which represents Felixstowe, Harwich, Ipswich and Mistley ports - is campaigning for the Felixstowe to Nuneaton rail route to be upgraded.
Felixstowe port aims to move 26% of its containers by rail by 2023. It currently puts 340,000 containers annually on the rail network and this would treble to 1.1million, but the new, higher 9ft 6in containers do not fit under bridges on large sections of the network.
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The partnership has welcomed the work carried out on the main Norwich-London line, including the lowering of the Ipswich railway tunnel to take the larger containers, but warned the upgrading of the main, direct Felixstowe to Nuneaton route was still the highest priority.
The Norwich to London line now carries the 9ft 6in containers on standard wagons, but to use the route from Felixstowe to the Midlands they have to go through London, adding four hours to their journeys.
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George Courtauld, Haven Gateway chairman, said: "We were pleased that the Norwich-London line work has been completed. But fundamentally it does little to address some of the strategic issues affecting train capacity in the East of England.
"The concept of sending trains via a route that is four hours longer than necessary does little in terms of meeting the needs of current freight users.
"East Anglia is to take half a million extra homes, yet we are sending trains down two sides of a triangle - down the Great Eastern Main Line, across the North London Line, and either up the Lee Valley Line, which includes Stansted, or up the other main lines, which is highly impractical.
"Felixstowe to Nuneaton is an underutilised line that needs some relatively modest improvements - soon."
John Lamb, chairman of the partnership's transport working group, said: ''The actual main Felixstowe to Nuneaton project is a well-defined and well-understood project that was given the full backing of Network Rail two years ago and we are very much hoping for a positive settlement from the Government's comprehensive spending review."