Decision day looms for rail line

FINAL arguments over the proposals to dual part of the Felixstowe-Ipswich rail line to increase its capacity for container cargo are set to be heard on May 17.

FINAL arguments over the proposals to dual part of the Felixstowe-Ipswich rail line to increase its capacity for container cargo are set to be heard on May 17.

That is the day earmarked for the resumption of the public inquiry being heard by independent inspector Christopher Tipping.

Evidence is expected to be given over some unresolved issues concerning the expansion of the Ipswich station marshalling yard, which is being expanded to cater for longer freight trains of 24 wagons.

Closing statements will then be given and there may be further site visits before Mr Tipping retires to compile his report.

He is expected to make his recommendation to the government before the end of the year and then a final decision will be made.

The port cannot start work on its next expansion project until the £46.6 million dualling project - four-and-a-half miles of the line between Trimley Station and Potter's Hole, just past the new Levington bridge - is done.

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At present 25 trains go in and out of Britain's biggest port every day - the maximum the track can take - and last year they carried 379,000 containers, 23 per cent of the port's throughput.

The dualling will allow another 13 trains each way every day and by 2023 the port expects around 1.1 million standard-sized boxes a year - 26pc of the throughput of the by then expanded port - to go by rail.

There is great interest in the project and East of England Liberal Democrat Euro MP Andrew Duff last week visited the port to meet officials and discuss the dualling of the railway line.

Paul Davey, the port's corporate affairs manager, gave Mr Duff a tour of the area where the new rail terminal will be built and told him of the port's concern that the burden of paying almost all the costs of infrastructure improvements - the dualling, plus work to the dock spur A14 and Copdock A12 roundabouts - could affect its global competitiveness.

The port has this month imposed extra surcharges on containers to pay for the work.