Ipswich/Suffolk: Could Europe boost the cross-country rail line?

The first test train uses the Ipswich chord

The first test train uses the Ipswich chord - Credit: Archant

On the day that test trains started using the new Ipswich rail chord, attention has now switched to getting funding to electrify the line from Felixstowe to the west Midlands.

And European Union funds are likely to be sought to boost what is seen as a key cross-Europe route.

Last week’s ceremony with transport minister Stephen Hammond marked the completion of the 1.4km chord which allows trains from Felixstowe to travel across country to the midlands and north without having to turn around at Ipswich.

The work cost a total of £59 million – of which £35 million was construction costs – and £11 million was contributed by the European Union because it is part of the Trans European Network (TEN).

Both Labour and Conservative candidates for next month’s elections to the European Parliament have pledged to seek more money from the Brussels for the electrification.

While this would primarily be to ease the movement of freight, it would also enable electric passenger trains to run from Ipswich to Felixstowe and Peterborough.

The electrification would almost certainly include the line from Cambridge to Newmarket, allowing electric trains to run to Ipswich from Cambridge.

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Conservative MEP Vicky Ford said: “Straight after he was elected, Ben Gummer came to see me to ask for my help in getting funding from the EU for this project, and we worked hard on it.

“I’m not happy about the way money goes from this country and then back again – but if that’s what it takes to get funding for such project then I’ll work hard to get the support.

“The same applies to the calls for electrification.”

Sandy Martin is one of the Labour MEP candidates. He said it would work hard to get European money for future developments.

“Electrification is just the kind of project that European money can be made available for, and I will work hard to ensure it is available.”

He said the TEN of rail lines and roads was vital for trade across the continent – and it was important to be committed to Europe to tap into this funding.”

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said the chord had been the result of cross-party collaboration over a number of years, and the same would be needed for future developments.

“Phil Smart (Labour councillor) deserves some credit for protecting the route, but it is the current government that has gone ahead and got the line built. And while European money was important, the contribution from the British government was much higher than theirs.”