Important engineering works to upgrade the Felixstowe branch have got underway this month, bringing a significant step change for the transportation of freight as well as improved reliability for passenger services.
As a part of Network Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan, engineers are undertaking a £60.4m programme of works to transform the single track branch line to allow more freight being transported by rail to and from the Port of Felixstowe by installing a 1.4km track loop near Trimley Station. This additional track will allow the line to operate more effectively, giving the flexibility needed to run more freight trains as well as improve the reliability of existing passenger services.
The work on the branch line in this area will support up to 10 additional trains in each direction to move goods to and from the Port of Felixstowe. With each additional freight train taking the equivalent of up to 76 lorries off the roads, the upgrade works will help to reduce congestion and pollution for the local community and the wider region.
Meliha Duymaz, Network Rail’s route managing director for Anglia, said: “This is a significant upgrade to one of the most important freight routes in the country. This work will help us to meet the demand for freight to and from Felixstowe port, and at the same time, increase reliability for passenger services. The long term strategy to move more freight by rail is good for the UK economy and will lessen the traffic on busy roads like the A14.”
In addition to the track re-doubling, works include the upgrade of several level crossings to make them safer and new bi-directional signalling infrastructure to support the demand for more freight trains. Once complete, there will be a more reliable service, improving journeys for all passengers.
Paul McMahon, Network Rail’s managing director for freight and national passenger operators, said: “This is a vital first step to growing capacity on the network to meet the needs of our customers. The £60m investment by the Strategic Freight Network is set to deliver an additional 10 paths in each direction by 2019. We know that there is more work to do on this busy corridor and we will continue to make the case for investment alongside our industry colleagues.”
Work began on 7th April 2018 and will continue throughout most weekends until autumn 2019. To allow a safe environment to undertake the work for engineers, buses will replace trains between Ipswich and Felixstowe from 1850hrs Saturday evenings and all day Sunday when works are taking place. On Bank holidays (excluding Christmas Day and Boxing Day), rail replacement bus services will be in place to allow passengers to completed their journey.
Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia managing director, said: “Together with Network Rail, Greater Anglia is investing in transforming the railway in East Anglia. In a couple of years the Felixstowe line will be transformed with brand new longer trains with more seats running on an improved line. In the meantime, I’d like to reassure customers that they will be able to complete their journeys on this line during the works, even if part of it is by replacement bus.”
Clemence Cheng, managing director at Hutchison Ports Europe, said: “Railfreight plays an essential role in distributing goods around the United Kingdom. Existing rail services from the Port of Felixstowe save over 100 million HGV miles per year from the roads, cutting carbon and easing congestion. We already have the widest range of rail services of any UK port with 33 freight train movements in and out per day and there is strong demand for additional rail capacity. The works to improve the branch line will support sustainable UK economic growth and improve access to international markets for businesses across the country.”