Haven Gateway: Port investment highlights need for F2N upgrade, says David Ralph

IT IS always great to have some central government recognition for the Haven Gateway, its achievements and its importance to UK trade and the economy – and there were some really positive words from shipping minister Mike Penning when he visited Felixstowe for the groundbreaking ceremony of another major investment at the port.

Mr Penning officially started work on the new North Rail Terminal project, which will be the third at the UK’s largest container port and the first in the UK designed to handle 30-wagon long freight trains capable of carrying 90 teu (standard 20-ft containers).

“This is vitally important for UK plc,” he said. “It means jobs, modal shift and more freight off the roads.”

This is “private” money going into the UK and reflects Hutchison Ports UK’s wish to invest in the country, added Mr Penning, who also praised the “significant contribution” made by HPUK to the local community.

As HPUK chief executive David Gledhill pointed out, this latest investment comes only months after the official opening of the port’s new deepwater Berths 8 and 9. “Last year we opened the UK’s largest container terminal, and this year we are building the country’s longest intermodal terminal,” he said. “By now I hope that most of you will be aware that the Port of Felixstowe is not only the largest container port in the UK, it is also the country’s largest terminal handling containerised rail freight – and is about to get a whole lot bigger.”

European recognition is also welcome, of course – and in this case, Felixstowe’s scheme is receiving a 5million euro grant from the Trans-European Transport Network Programme.

HPUK has already invested heavily in the refurbishment of its South Rail Terminal and after the new terminal is opened next year the existing North Rail Terminal will also be refurbished.

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The new terminal will double rail capacity at Felixstowe, but we must also keep focused on what happens beyond the port gates.

We continues to push for the upgrade the Felixstowe-Nuneaton rail route to create capacity for a substantial increase in freight trains. Network Rail has said F2N is a top priority in its next round of investments, but we know never to take anything for granted!