Monday 9 Aug 2010


Region & Route:
| Eastern: Anglia
| Eastern

Network Rail has today announced plans to expand its investment in Ipswich’s railway following huge public support for its scheme to take up to 750,000 lorry journeys off the region’s road every year.

More than 300 people attended Network Rail’s public exhibition at Ipswich’s Corn Exchange in June to have their say on the company’s plans to build a new 1km stretch of track, or ‘chord’, to link the East Suffolk line and Great Eastern main line. The chord will remove the need for freight trains travelling to and from the port of Felixstowe to use the sidings adjacent to Ipswich station as a turning point, eliminating a major bottleneck on the busy Great Eastern main line and freeing up capacity for both passenger and freight services.

The results of the public exhibition showed that 95% of people support the scheme, with many indicating they would like to see the new chord double-tracked to provide additional capacity for further freight growth. This mirrored the views of local authorities with whom Network Rail consulted earlier in the year and, as a result, the scope of the project has been increased to include the double-track chord.

Andrew Munden, route director for Network Rail, said: "Britain relies on rail freight and East Anglia’s railways are playing a crucial role in the country’s economic recovery. More and more companies are switching to rail and reaping the economic and environmental benefits. Network Rail’s increased investment in Ipswich means the railway will be best-placed to cater for the continuing growth of rail freight as major ports like Felixstowe continue to expand."

David Gledhill, chief executive officer of Hutchison Ports (UK) Ltd, owners of the Port of Felixstowe, said: "We are delighted with the decision to double track Ipswich chord from the outset. The Port of Felixstowe already moves more containers by rail than any other UK port and this development will help deliver the infrastructure necessary to secure future growth."

Plans on schedule
Network Rail will develop designs for the double-track chord and continue its consultations with the public in the autumn. Should the scheme receive approval, work should start in 2012 and be complete by March 2014.

Mr Munden continued: “The decision to double-track the new chord will not affect the schedule of the project that will 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.”

Felixstowe to Nuneaton route upgrade
The Ipswich chord is one of various projects that are helping Network Rail to upgrade the route from Felixstowe to Nuneaton in the West Midlands via Ely, Peterborough and Leicester. The new chord, along with two new passing loops near Ely, will improve capacity between Ipswich and Peterborough.

Today, Anglia’s freight trains have to travel down the busy Great Eastern main line and through London to reach the Midlands, North West and Scotland. Once complete in 2014, these rail improvements will provide more direct journeys for freight trains travelling from the Port of Felixstowe to the Midlands, North West, and Scotland, and the potential for faster journeys to Yorkshire.

Faster, greener, safer
Between 1999 and 2008 the number of containers passing through Felixstowe – the largest container port in the UK – increased by 118% but the number of those containers transported by rail increased by 165%, demonstrating the growing market share of rail. Over the same period the number of trains serving the port daily has almost doubled.

With Felixstowe set to continue growing and the new Bathside Bay terminal at Harwich due for completion within the next decade, investment in rail freight – faster, greener and safer than road transport – has never been more crucial.

Network Rail’s plans will see an increasing share of freight traffic handled by the railways, reducing pressure on congested roads such as the A12 and A14. It is estimated congestion on the A14 alone costs the region £80m each year.

Notes to editors

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.

Rail is also 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.

Rail can be a cheaper, quicker and a more practical way for businesses to transport their goods around the country and beyond. 

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

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About Network Rail

We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

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