Freight line should boost port

BIG improvements will start next year to increase the capacity of the main cross-county rail freight line used by Felixstowe port.Government ministers have agreed an £80 million grant for the project for the Felixstowe to Nuneaton (F2N) line to enable the route to carry 9ft 6in high cube containers.

BIG improvements will start next year to increase the capacity of the main cross-county rail freight line used by Felixstowe port.

Government ministers have agreed an £80 million grant for the project for the Felixstowe to Nuneaton (F2N) line to enable the route to carry 9ft 6in high cube containers.

At the moment, the higher boxes need specialist rail wagons or have to be carried by road to reach the north and west - or be sent from the Port of Felixstowe on an already busy route via London.

The scheme will also receive £5million from Network Rail and £1million from the East of England Development Agency.

Paul Davey, head of corporate affairs at the Port of Felixstowe, warmly welcomed the investment in the section of the F2N route near Peterborough.

“We have already committed significant expenditure ourselves for improvements in this route, but it's important to realise that further investment will be needed in future, particularly if the development of Crossrail, and the London Mayor's ambitions for passengers force freight traffic away from London,” he said.

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“As a first stage of investment in the route, we very warmly welcome the announcement by government.”

Lindsay Durham, head of rail strategy at Freightliner, said in addition to the recently announced £200m worth of funding to start a strategic freight network, the latest grants it would make a “step difference” in the ability of rail freight operators to move 9ft 6ins containers on standards wagons from the major deep sea ports.

Rail journeys also had a much lower carbon footprint than road movements and could help to relieve road congestion.

“In light of the recent Crossrail announcement, this decision demonstrates joined up thinking with the recent Eddington report, and is a step closer to establishing a nationwide rail network capable of carrying 9ft 6ins containers,” she said.

In addition to the £80m F2N upgrade, the Department for Transport said almost £43m will be used to enhance the gauge on the key Southampton to Nuneaton corridor, which links the port with Birmingham, the north west and Scotland through the West Coast Main Line.

Transport minister Tom Harris said the improved infrastructure would make a “significant contribution” to reducing road congestion, carbon and environmental emissions, as well as supporting the future growth of the economy.

“This funding is on top of the £65m the DfT announced earlier this year to support freight through upgrading infrastructure and securing greener ways of moving the nation's goods,” he said.

Construction is due to start in early 2008 and be completed by 2011.

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