Rail link required to relieve lorry load

PRESSURE is growing today to bring forward massive investment in a new rail link to relieve Suffolk's lorry load.Spending millions to upgrade the Felixstowe to Nuneaton line would double freight capacity, enabling hundreds of thousands more boxes to be sent by rail instead of road.

PRESSURE is growing today to bring forward massive investment in a new rail link to relieve Suffolk's lorry load.

Spending millions to upgrade the Felixstowe to Nuneaton line would double freight capacity, enabling hundreds of thousands more boxes to be sent by rail instead of road.

Without it, ports in the region will fail to meet government targets for getting more cargo onto trains – and the congested rail lines currently used will be overloaded and seize up.

The cash-strapped Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) has already put the project into a siding for a year but is now facing calls to get it back on the timetable.

Both Felixstowe Town Council and the Haven Gateway Partnership (HGP) have sent strong messages to the government urging the scheme to be started in 2004.

Town council plans committee chairman Andy Smith said the direct route to the Midlands would be "of intrinsic value to the local economy" and it was counter-productive for the rail authorities to send north-bound cargo round London.

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He said: "It's ridiculous for efforts to be concentrated on sending rail traffic via London – the Nuneaton route makes far more sense in the long-term."

The HGP said it was essential work starts next year to upgrade the route's tunnels and bridges so it can take the new higher 9ft 6in containers.

The line was identified as the most important rail freight route in the UK in a report for the Transport and Energy Commission of the EU.

"The deferral of the scheme flies in the face of government policy as set out in the White Paper A New Deal for Transport and its ten-year plan objectives and targets," said the HGP.

"But technical proposals have been worked up by Network Rail and the Strategic Rail Authority.

"The scheme could be implemented quickly, once funds are approved."

Upgrading the Felixstowe-Nuneaton route would allow capacity to be increased to up to 32 container trains per day.

Felixstowe and Harwich, handle nearly three million boxes annually – more than 40pc of all containers through UK ports.

About a fifth are moved by rail and there are 18 container train services a day from Felixstowe.

At present, most trains go via the Great Eastern Main Line to London and then the North London line to the West Coast Main Line. The route is already very congested.

The HGP said the Haven Ports could not rely on the London route for the future, particularly with the extension to Felixstowe's Trinity Terminal and plans to redesign the south of the port.

Proposals for a container port at Bathside Bay and greater use of the higher boxes are also in the pipeline.

This could lead to a major increase in road haulage with associated economic, environmental and safety implications.

The SRA has said work on the project should start in 2005.

WEBLINK: www.havengateway.org

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