ELY RAIL IMPROVEMENT GETS UNDER WAY: Rail freight at Port of Felixstowe

Wednesday 29 Feb 2012


Region & Route:
| Eastern: Anglia
| Eastern

The cross-country Felixstowe to Nuneaton rail route is set for further improvements as Network Rail begins work on building two 775m loops parallel to existing track east of Ely station. The work will enable better regulation of trains through the junctions at Ely and should be complete by summer 2013.

The Ely loops form an important part of Network Rail’s strategic freight network, a programme of investment to improve freight capacity across Britain’s railway. They complement other work on the cross-country route, including the completion of gauge clearance of the entire route in 2011, the ongoing construction of a flyover north of Nuneaton station, and the Ipswich Chord which is currently seeking planning approval.

Once all these upgrades are complete in early 2014, freight trains carrying the larger 9’6” or ‘high-cube’ containers increasingly used by global shipping companies will be able to travel more directly from the Port of Felixstowe to the economic markets in West Midlands, north-west England and Scotland without having to travel through north London, which they currently do, making a valuable contribution to the economy and helping Britain compete better in the global marketplace.

Tim Cook, senior sponsor at Network Rail, said: “The work we’re doing at Ely, together with the other enhancements along the route, is a key part of our plans to take more freight off roads and onto rail.

“This project will help to take up to 750,000 lorry journeys off the road every year by 2030, reducing traffic congestion, improving road safety and reducing carbon emissions by around three-quarters.”


Notes to editors

Network Rail is reforming its infrastructure business with a greater focus on partnership with suppliers and a restructuring of the way the company delivers capital projects. The changes are a key part of the company’s plans to deliver efficiency savings helping to reduce the cost of running the railway.

Improving the railway from Felixstowe to Nuneaton (Phase 1) involves:

Gauge enhancements between Peterborough and Nuneaton to ensure the entire route can carry the larger, more economical freight containers increasingly preferred by global shipping firms. It also enables freight operators to use standard wagons which are more efficient and economical.

Capacity enhancements between Ipswich and Peterborough: (i) a new 1km stretch of track, or chord, north of Ipswich goods yard, linking the East Suffolk and Great Eastern lines (ii) two 775m sections of track east of Ely station to enable better regulation of trains through the junctions at Ely iii) signalling works at Kennett / Bury St Edmunds.

These works will increase capacity between Ipswich and Peterborough from 10 container freight trains per day (tpd) to up to 24tpd in each direction by 2014, and provide passive provision for enabling 775m trains to run in future.

The Nuneaton North Chord: a flyover north of Nuneaton station that will allow freight trains from Peterborough to join the West Coast Main Line without the need to cross it at grade.

Phase 2:

The rail industry is currently waiting for the government’s response to its Initial Industry Plan, which identifies further improvements along the Felixstowe to Nuneaton route for 2014-2019. This includes the doubling of the track between Ely and Soham, which was announced in the Chancellor’s 2011 Autumn statement and is planned to finish by 2016 subject to obtaining the necessary consents. The Ely loops construction in Phase 1 effectively doubles the first mile of the route between Ely and Soham – the work is being planned to make full future doubling in Phase 2 as straightforward as possible. Network Rail is developing plans for further enhancements to the railway around Ely, which could meet aspirations for both freight and passenger services.

The Felixstowe to Nuneaton freight upgrade scheme will bring the following benefits:

Vehicles off the road
The Port of Felixstowe has increased rapidly in size over the past few years. When the Felixstowe South redevelopment is completed and the new Bathside Bay container terminal has been built at Harwich around 2020, these combined Haven Ports will have more than doubled their pre-2010 capacity.

This growth in freight from Haven Ports will have a major impact on transport in the area and it is estimated this scheme will enable the transfer of up to 750,000 lorry freight journeys a year by 2030 from Britain’s roads to the railway. This will help reduce carbon emissions and ease traffic congestion on the road network, particularly on the A14, where congestion is estimated to cost the region £80m each year.

Rail is one of the most environmentally sustainable forms of transport. Rail freight produces 76% less carbon dioxide than road freight per tonne carried, so the greater transfer of freight from road to rail as a result of this scheme will significantly reduce carbon emissions and help the UK reduce its carbon footprint.

High cube containers are larger than standard containers, and therefore more items can be transported within them, making them a more efficient means of distributing goods. Rail can therefore be a cheaper, quicker and a more practical way for businesses to transport their goods around the country and beyond. At present high cube containers are too big to be carried on standard height platform wagons on much of the rail network. Therefore the only way to carry them by rail is on special low wagons. However, this reduces efficiency and capacity by up to 33%.

Economic growth
The upgraded rail freight link will improve the competitiveness and encourage economic growth across Britain. This project will also make it easier to import and export goods, helping Britain compete more effectively in the global market.

The value of freight:

- The British economy relies on rail freight to the tune of £870m a year
- Rail transports over 100m tonnes of goods worth around £30bn every year
- The freight sector supports employment 14 times the number employed directly in the industry (66.6k compared to 4.7k )
- In total the UK freight sector contributes £299m in profits and wages to the UK economy
- Rail freight generates £185k worth of output per employee almost double the national average (£89k)
- Rail freight demand is predicted to grow by 30% over the next decade and up to 140% over 30 years
- Without the railway, the anticipated growth in freight traffic over the next 30 years would mean an extra 1.5 million lorry journeys on Britain’s roads each year
- The Eddington Study estimated that the time lost as a result of road congestion costs the British economy £7-8bn every year and is likely to be at least £24bn by 2025
- Freight also helps minimise road congestion – every freight train takes around 60 lorries off the road. Rail is one of the most environmentally sustainable forms of transport. Rail freight produces 76% less carbon dioxide than road freight per tonne carried.

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