Felixstowe: Port boss says freight trains are the ‘poor relation’ on the region’s tracks

HRH The Duke of York officially opens the new railway terminal at the Port of Felixstowe. CEO CLemen

HRH The Duke of York officially opens the new railway terminal at the Port of Felixstowe. CEO CLemence Cheng. - Credit: Archant

The boss of the Port of Felixstowe told MPs freight trains are the “poor relation” on the region’s tracks with upgrades to rail infrastructure more important than the A14.

Clemence Cheng, chief executive of Hutchison Ports, told the Commons’ transport select committee the full electrification of the line between the Suffolk port and Ipswich was needed along with more “loops” in the system to create more capacity.

Giving evidence to the Transport Select Committee Mr Cheng said: “There is a lot of publicity around roads and the A14, but when you really consider that only 3pc on that stretch of road is freight coming up from Felixstowe, for us it is important, but it is not that important.”

His comments come just days after the government gave the green light to the £1.5bn A14 upgrade, with work set to start in 2016.

Mr Cheng said that access to the rail was important amid great demand to shift more freight from road to rail.

He said the company had already worked with Network Rail to “clear bottlenecks”, with the Duke of York opening a new £40 million rail terminal at the Port of Felixstowe last month.

The nine-track North Rail Terminal – which doubles rail capacity at the port - was co-financed by the European Union Trans-European Transport Network.

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It is estimated the rail terminal will take up to 750,000 lorries a year off the A14 by 2030, when the terminal is working to capacity.

Mr Cheng said: “Rail is a business that you need scale. The more you can put on the one train it is going to be more economical.” “From that perspective the infrastructure needs to be able to take these bigger trains. At the moment there is not sufficient diversion routes for these trains to go on. Even though we can handle long trains, the system can’t cope.”

He also said that priority was always given to passenger trains.

“We need to find a way to deal with it. We need more interchanges and facilities built into the system. I think at one point from Felixstowe out to Ipswich is still not electrified. If it was electrified it would allow more capacity.”

He added: “I think we are the poor relation. That is certainly our feeling.”

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