Rail link may cut lorries on A14 by 2,000 a day
PLANS to create a new rail line linking east Suffolk to the north of England could eventually lead to more than 2,000 fewer lorries every day on the A14.
Rail chiefs are preparing to spend millions on getting more freight off the A14 and the main rail line to London.
Network Rail bosses have given the green light to creating a full double-track rail curve near Hadleigh Road in Ipswich to allow freight trains from Felixstowe to get to the midlands and north of England without travelling to London.
That should ease congestion on Suffolk’s busiest road – and also make more room for passenger trains on the main line to London.
The company had been preparing to spend �35 million on a single-track curve. Now it is planning to spend an extra �13m on making it double track.
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But because of other efficiencies it has managed to find in the project, the total cost will be �41m.
A spokesman for Network Rail said: “The chord does not need to be double track immediately, but hopefully we will need that extra capacity within a few years.
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“By doing it all at once it will make the project more expensive – but if we dualled it in two bites it would cost much more. Once the single track chord was built it would cost a further �30m to double it.
“We’ve listened to what people have said and decided to go ahead with the whole project in one go.”
Suffolk’s new MPs have been putting pressure on Network Rail and the Department of Transport to go ahead with the double track chord.
Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter was delighted to hear the news: “We need to get as much freight as possible off the roads and on to the rail network.
“This will ease congestion – and should make the rail line to London less congested, hopefully making the service more reliable and improving reliability there.”
Network Rail estimates that by 2030 the new cross-country rail route will be taking 750,000 lorry journeys off the A14 every year - which works out at a reduction of more than 2,000 lorries a day on the busy road.
Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey said it was important to get as much freight as possible from the port of Felixstowe on to the railway.
She said: “We have written to (Transport Secretary) Philip Hammond asking for help to make sure the development of the rail network continues to ease traffic congestion and improve the route through Essex.”
David Gledhill, chief executive officer of Hutchison Ports (UK) Ltd, owners of the Port of Felixstowe, said: “We are delighted with the decision to double track Ipswich chord from the outset. “The Port of Felixstowe already moves more containers by rail than any other UK port and this development will help deliver the infrastructure necessary to secure future growth.”
Network Rail is hoping to get the final go-ahead for the project in the government’s comprehensive spending review in October.
This, along with a new passing loop near Ely, will enable almost all freight trains to go cross-country rather than via London.
Work would start on the chord in 2012 and the whole project would be complete by March 2014, clearing the main line of most of its freight trains.