December 1st 2004
The Felixstowe - Nuneaton rail freight corridor is now offically open and cleared to take 9 6 containers on standard wagons.
Charlotte Atkins MP, Minister of Transport, officiated at the ceremony staged at the Port of Felixstowe. The route upgrade was completed in 18 months, paid for by the SRA and delivered by Network Rail.
The corridor is important for UK rail freight as it enables operators to meet the growing international demand for 9 6 containers. Loading gauge constrictions on Britains railways mean shippers have to use 8 6 high freight containers. The upgrade was projected to cost nearly £40 million, but has been delivered for under £30 million - a significant cost saving - and has been completed ahead of schedule.
It involved work at 31 key locations along the route enabling 9 6 high boxes to be transported from ports on the east coast to the Midlands, North West and Scotland, via the West Coast Main Line. The Port of Felixstowe is the UKs largest gateway for freight in containers and currently receives 1.7 million freight containers a year, a quarter of which are 9 6 high.
By 2010, it is anticipated that 850,000 containers, or half of all those landing at the port, will be 9 6 high. This route upgrade means that rail will remain competitive in the UK freight market, with one freight train carrying the equivalent of up to 75 lorry loads.
Simon Kirby, Network Rail Director of Major Projects, said, We are delighted to have delivered this critical project both on time and significantly under budget. The upgrade of this route was vital for the future of rail freight. It will allow our customers, the rail freight operators, to remain competitive in the UK freight industry, which in turn reduces the number of lorries on busy roads.
The Felixstowe to Nuneaton project has delivered gauge clearance between Felixstowe, Ipswich, Harwich, Tilbury, Purfleet, and London, together with the route between Nuneaton and Birmingham.