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New rail link to port

PUBLISHED: 04:00 04 November 2001 | UPDATED: 15:19 03 March 2010

PREPARATIONS are being made for a new freight train service out of Felixstowe Port - the first of its kind in the country.

The unique service run by UK liner agent Johnson Stevens will be the first independent rail freight operation to be set up by a non-train operating company.

PREPARATIONS are being made for a new freight train service out of Felixstowe Port – the first of its kind in the country.

The unique service run by UK liner agent Johnson Stevens will be the first independent rail freight operation to be set up by a non-train operating company.

It had been hoped to launch the box train service in September but there were problems with track access charges.

Now Johnson Stevens is aiming to start the service between Felixstowe and Doncaster in mid-January.

The 150-mile route will be run by a modern Class 66 locomotive hired from GB Railfreight, pulling 12 sixty feet long wagons and able to be loaded with 32 standard-sized containers.

It is a small service compared with the 13 trains and 1,000 boxes a day which come and go from the port – Britain's biggest container terminal – on the Freightliner services, but Johnson Stevens is hoping it has identified a niche route.

Derek Johnson, chairman of Johnson Stevens, believes the new service could prove attractive for to UK road hauliers, who are currently waiting for the new EC Working Time Directive to come into force and assess its impact.

As the directive will mean shorter hours for drivers, it is likely to bring higher running costs for hauliers.

"We see hauliers as being major customers of this service," said Mr Johnson.

"It may make more economic sense for hauliers to pick up loads from Doncaster rather than having to truck all the way down and back again."

Reduced driver hours and increased road congestion is seen as many industry observers as key factors in shifting freight off the highways and onto the rails.

Felixstowe Port has had two rail terminals for many years for moving containers, and now a third, smaller one is being built for specialist paper traffic and will be operated by the UK's largest rail freight firm EWS.

There are plans to expand rail services again in the future when work starts on the next expansion of the 700-acre container terminal.

Port owners Hutchison Whampoa will be hoping to secure grant aid from the Strategic Rail Authority for the construction of the extra railhead.

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