December 12 2013 Latest news:
BY RICHARD CORNWELL
Thursday, February 14, 2013
PORT chiefs today confirmed that they are not pursuing moves to cut passenger services to allow more freight trains to run on the Felixstowe-Ipswich line – and are looking at other solutions.
The idea was put forward by Port of Felixstowe bosses as part of a radical rethink over the use of the “bottleneck” 12-mile line – and to take thousands of lorries off the busy A14.
But travel groups were horrified by the suggestion and called for the port to ditch it and go back and look at different ways of increasing their capacity, including pressing ahead with the £40m scheme to dual part of the line.
Bryan Frost, of Felixstowe Travel Watch, said the port’s suggestion appeared to have found no support with those drawing together ideas for the new rail franchise for the region.
“It’s not been mentioned at any of the meetings and forums I have attended, not a squeak, so perhaps we will hear no more of it – though you can never say never,” he said.
“It would be up to the Department of Transport to make a decision such as cutting passenger services.
“The Felixstowe item on the agenda has been the electrification of our line, especially as it seems Network Rail would prefer electrification of the route from Southampton port – which doesn’t handle anywhere near as many containers as Felixstowe – to the Midlands.
“The franchise process seems to have hit a delay at the moment and there is no specification yet for the public consultation exercise.”
The Port of Felixstowe suggested an express bus service could replace some trains, late morning ones which were less well-used, to provide extra freight capacity, leaving the busy commuter services in place.
It was estimated it would take 60 lorries off the road each time, making environmental and economic sense.
Head of corporate affairs for port owners Hutchison Ports UK, Paul Davey said: “It was not a proposal by the port but an idea which we hoped might bring forward some discussion about meeting the needs of both freight and passenger users.”
It was not a project the port was pursuing and he was unaware of any discussions involving the county council or rail authorities.
The port was also now looking at other solutions to increase rail capacity, with the ability to run longer trains already helping.