Now for the cross country route!

AS THE first large containers start travelling between Felixstowe, the midlands and the north west of England, rail bosses are today looking at the next major project – upgrading the cross-country line between Ipswich and Peterborough.

AS THE first large containers start travelling between Felixstowe, the midlands and the north west of England, rail bosses are today looking at the next major project - upgrading the cross-country line between Ipswich and Peterborough.

The Felixstowe to Nuneaton upgrade has been completed on time and £10million under budget.

This allows nine foot six inch-high containers to be carried on normal freight wagons from Felixstowe to freight terminals in the west midlands.

Until now the maximum size of containers that could be carried was eight foot six inches.


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Work is now underway upgrading the links to Manchester - that should be completed by the end of the year.

Now rail container company Freightliner is to urge the Strategic Rail Authority and infrastructure owners Network Rail to go ahead with the upgrade of the line to Peterborough to allow the larger containers to be carried cross country to destinations in Yorkshire and on Teeside.

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Robert Goundry, director of strategy at Freightliner, said it was vital that more containers should be taken from Felixstowe by train.

He said: "Our trains are taking a thousand lorries a day off the road to and from Felixstowe, and to make that a cost-effective option it is the longer-distance journeys where it becomes a valid option.

"That represents about 22/23 percent of all the containers leaving Felixstowe - but most of them are long-distance trips.

"We take about 60 pc of the longer distance containers, to the West Midlands and the north of England - most of the containers to London and the south east go by road."

Mr Goundry said the logistically difficulties with moving containers on and off trains meant they needed to be taken a long distance before the trip became cost-effective.

Freightliner has major depots in Leeds and Cleveland which are served by trains from Felixstowe which use the cross-country route to Peterborough.

"We would really like to see that upgraded, and it should not be too major a job for Network Rail and the SRA," Mr Goundry added.

SRA chairman David Quarmby said the cross-country route from Felixstowe was considered for an upgrade before the decision was taken to go ahead with the route via London.

He said: "There were considerable advantages with doing it this way around. For a start we were able to include a link with Tilbury, the third largest container port in Britain, in the overall route.

"We may well have another look at the cross-country route in the future, if there is the need for it.

"But there are very major problems, especially on the other end of that route in the Leicester area.

"If we do look at the entire route again, it may not be for another 10 years - but you cannot always predict how things will develop," he said.

The way the railway had been upgraded, especially as the total cost was £30 million rather than the budgeted £40 million and the smooth way the closure of Ipswich tunnel was handled was held up as an example which would be followed by other rail projects.

Is it worth spending millions moving containers from the road to the railways? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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