Councils offer £1m to get major upgrade to vital Suffolk rail junction
PUBLISHED: 17:33 04 March 2019 | UPDATED: 18:15 04 March 2019
Council leaders in Suffolk have offered Network Rail £1m to try to encourage it to upgrade Haughley Junction just north of Stowmarket as a matter of priority.
An improvement to the junction – where the cross-country line to Cambridge and Peterborough leaves the main Ipswich to Norwich route - is vital if more freight and passenger trains are to use the line.
It was reduced to a single-track junction during rationalisation in the late 1960s, but it is very near to its capacity as more freight trains from Felixstowe use the cross-country route.
The land is still available beside the existing tracks to create a full two-track junction, but the upgrade would cost several million pounds.
Local councils and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership are hoping that work to improve the junction will be included in Network Rail’s next five-year “Control Period Six” (CP6) whose details are due to be published in the spring.
Although the cost is likely to be high, improving the junction is seen as a relatively straight-forward project for the infrastructure company.
Members of the Suffolk Council Leaders’ group decided to offer the £1m from business rates during their meeting last week.
It has not formally been committed yet because it depends on Network Rail giving the go-ahead for the scheme, but the council leaders hope this will encourage officials to look favourably on the upgrade.
A spokesman for the county council said: “The council leaders are keen for Network Rail to see how keen they are for this development to go ahead and have made this offer.
“Once the project is in Network Rail’s programme it will have to go through the county’s cabinet – so from that point of view it cannot be seen as a firm commitment at the moment but the money has been set aside for once the decision is made.”
Sources from within the rail industry have said that the upgrade is likely to happen eventually because it is necessary if the number of trains are to increase substantially.
However with planning for CP6 still ongoing at Network Rail, a spokesman for the infrastructure company could only say: “A business case is still being developed for the upgrade to Haughley junction.”