Tram-style service not the answer

WHEN it comes to fighting for Suffolk's county town, there is no organisation finer than The Ipswich Society.What makes this group so special is that it doesn't just try to preserve the past in the town - it is forward-thinking and always looks for ways of developing and improving the town in the future.

WHEN it comes to fighting for Suffolk's county town, there is no organisation finer than The Ipswich Society.

What makes this group so special is that it doesn't just try to preserve the past in the town - it is forward-thinking and always looks for ways of developing and improving the town in the future.

Usually it is spot-on with its observations and campaigns but occasionally ­- very occasionally - it makes a wrong call.

And I'm afraid it's got it all wrong by calling for the Ipswich to Felixstowe rail line to be turned into an electrified tram-style route to take traffic off the town's congested roads.


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The Ipswich to Felixstowe rail line is vital for the county - but its real value is in taking tens of thousands of lorries heading to and from the huge container port off the A14 and A12.

Efforts to develop the line must concentrate on making it more attractive for freight trains rather than running more passenger services. An hourly service to the coast is the best-ever seen on the line and really is as good as we can expect - although it would be good to see two or even three-car units more often instead of the single railcars which dominate the route.

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The fact is that the line does not, and never can have, the capacity to take more passenger trains.

Between Westerfield junction and Derby Road station it will always have to be single-line which prevents an intensive service being run.

This section cannot be doubled - at least not without hundreds of millions of pounds being thrown at it.

At one stage it passes beside the cemetery, so cannot be widened, and then there is the single-track Spring Road viaduct. Doubling the line through town is not an option.

And electrification is also not a sensible idea - you cannot electrify it into the port because containers have to be loaded from above and 25,000-volt cables would get in the way somewhat.

So if the line were electrified to Felixstowe, a marshalling yard would need to be built outside the port - there is a perfectly good yard at Ipswich where electric locomotives are fitted to take trains on after arriving from the port.

Putting wires over the route from Haughley junction to Ely and on to Peterborough would be a far more useful operation than running them through to Felixstowe.

It is not the small diesel railcars that disturb people on the Felixstowe route - it is the heavy diesel freight trains, and they are likely to continue whether there are wires up or not.

So in this case The Ipswich Society is wrong.

They should not be dissuaded from the good work they do, but trying to turn the Felixstowe rail line into anything other than a prime freight route with a few passenger trains on it will not be good for anyone in the long term.

YOUNG Ben Gummer is getting a crash course on real-life politics as the Conservative groups in Ipswich and the county council continue to square up to each other.

Frankly if he thinks this row has all been stirred up by the Labour Party, then he's living in Cloud Cuckoo Land - it's a problem caused by the Tories on the county council and stirred up by the Tories on the county council.

The latest twist came after county council leader Jeremy Pembroke said strong leadership provided by former chief executive Mike More ensured Ipswich got a university, received investment from BT, and was able to pick up the pieces after the Steve Wright murder spree.

Those comments infuriated everyone across the road at the borough council - including his Conservative colleagues.

One senior Tory said to me: “How dare he suggest that the university and the prostitution strategy set up after the murders were county initiatives? I'm so cross.

“Mike More gave us fantastic support - and he was a brilliant chief executive for the county. But to suggest they were Suffolk initiatives is wrong. Everything like that was led by the borough and it is wrong for the county to try to take the credit.”

The county's hopes for unitary status are backed only by Mid Suffolk - but there's no surprise there because the Needham-based council long ago surrendered its independence to Endeavour House.

It's the only council to leap into bed with the county on many functions - and has ended up about as independent of the county council as Sky Television is of Rupert Murdoch!

As the idea of “Yartoft” seems to be fading, the odds-on favourite in the unitary government stakes is the east/west/Ipswich option - a move which is growing in support across the county.

I just hope that the councillors at the county council who have shown themselves so out of touch in their appointment of Andrea Hill don't show themselves equally out of touch over the next few months and go out spending hundreds of thousands in a campaign that is doomed from day one.

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