Cabinet minister’s visit to Felixstowe marks new phase in port expansion
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has paid a whistle-stop visit to East Anglia to launch the latest expansion at the Port of Felixstowe and see progress on easing one of the region’s main rail bottlenecks at Ely.
And he also made it clear he was keeping an eye on Highway’s England’s attempts to keep traffic moving on the Orwell Bridge – even if high winds are threatened.
He started the visit at Ely where work on rebuilding the north junction is due to start in two years’ time.
That will increase the capacity on cross-country routes to the Midlands and north of England from East Anglia – but at £47m it is an expensive project and it has been delayed while Network Rail re-evaluated its costs.
After that visit Mr Grayling and his team caught the train from Ely to Felixstowe where he formally started work on the creation of a new 13 hectare container yard – which includes 3.2 hectares of reclaimed seabed.
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He said: “This important expansion of Felixstowe continues the port’s impressive record of investment to make sure it is well placed to make the most of trading opportunities both now and in the future.
“As a great, global trading nation, the UK and its ports are the natural home for international maritime business. It is great to see our largest container port expanding its offering so it can grow and prosper.”
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He said the port’s road and rail links to the rest of the country were very important: “Hutchison Ports, which owns Felixstowe, is supporting the government’s Strategic Freight Network in a joint investment of £60million to enhance capacity on the branch line at Felixstowe – meaning even more trains will be able to carry freight away from the port.
“We are also making sure roads in the area see similar levels of improvement. That’s why we’re investing £1.5 billion in upgrading the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon into three lanes in each direction, and building a brand new 17-mile bypass south of Huntingdon.”
When asked about the problems faced by traffic when the Orwell Bridge was closed by Highways England when high winds were forecast, Mr Grayling said the agency was examine its systems to try to keep traffic moving as much as possible – and he realised the closures put unacceptable pressure on other roads in the area.