Haven Gateway: Look, no M25! But what about the A14?

David Ralph, chief executive of the Haven Gateway Partnership, highlights the sub-region’s advantages over the new London Gateway container terminal being built on the River Thames, but warns that improvements to the A14 are vital for the future

FOR a long time the proposed London Gateway container terminal on the River Thames seemed speculative.

Announcements that construction was starting always seemed to carry a caveat, but now London Gateway is on the way, with port owner and operator DP World having confirmed that the new container facility will open in the fourth quarter 2013.

What does that mean for the Port of Felixstowe and the wider Haven Gateway’s shipping and logistics sector? Undoubtedly it means new competition – we would always support that. Clearly, it’s also a time when we must redouble our efforts and make sure the world knows what the Haven Gateway has to offer.

We should not undersell or underestimate our considerable advantages when serving the maritime and logistics sector. As Felixstowe port’s owner, Hutchison Ports UK, recently pointed out: “We are better located, closer to the main shipping lanes than they [London Gateway] are, we have better rail connections than they will be able to offer, and we don’t need to navigate the M25 to get everywhere from here.”

HPUK has demonstrated its commitment by investing heavily in the new Berths 8 & 9, and further investment is on the way in a new rail terminal this year.

But there is a downside; we may not have to endure the M25, but we do have our own challenges in the form of the A14. For years we and others have lobbied government regarding the upgrade of this vital corridor, and it does seem that our voices are at last being heard.

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In its Autumn Statement, the Government set out its intention to address problems with the A14, and this was followed by the “A14 Challenge”, an process seeking views on the way ahead, including whether the improvements should be funded by a toll road.

Now we must wait to hear the Government’s proposals. John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said recently: “The A14 plays a fundamental part in the daily operation of the Suffolk economy. For far too long the need to address what are regular incidents of congestion has been ignored. We have to make it clear that the time is right and the time is now for improvements to be made.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself!