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Work on rail upgrades should commence as soon as possible, Suffolk councillors say



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Work must commence as soon as possible on a vital rail upgrade to ease freight bottlenecks, Suffolk councillors have said.

Suffolk County Council’s full council meeting passed a motion yesterday afternoon urging Network Rail to ensure work starts immediately after it is signed off by the Department for Transport on the Haughley Junction upgrade.

The work, estimated to cost somewhere between £10million and £20m, has been in the pipeline for a number of years, but councillors said patience was wearing thin.

Endeavour House in Russell Road, Ipswich. Headquarters of Suffolk County Council and Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils. Picture: Jason Noble.
Endeavour House in Russell Road, Ipswich. Headquarters of Suffolk County Council and Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils. Picture: Jason Noble.

Cllr Richard Smith, Conservative cabinet member for economic development, transport strategy and waste, said it is crucial to the future freight movements from the Port of Felixstowe as Freeport East, will take lorries off the roads and aid the county’s continuing economic development.

He said the junction 'lacks the capacity to enable more freight to be sent through it by train, and we need to tackle that for the future'.

“The layout of the junction is acknowledged by all as far from perfect, and needs to be realigned,” he said.

Councillor Richard Smith. Picture: Suffolk County Council.
Councillor Richard Smith. Picture: Suffolk County Council.

“But nothing has happened. And nothing has happened despite the sweetener of £1m towards costs promised by the Suffolk Public Sector Leaders group as acknowledgement of this proposal’s importance and as a financial encouragement to make it happen.

“Yes there have been delays in planning during the Covid crisis, but the time to action this fairly modest project should be now.

“Suffolk people are patient people but our patience is wearing thin.

“We all know the decision lies with the Department for Transport but today we lobby Network Rail who will carry out the work which they have already planned.

Sandy Martin, Labour group deputy leader and division councillor for Rushmere at Suffolk County Council. Picture: Suffolk County Council.
Sandy Martin, Labour group deputy leader and division councillor for Rushmere at Suffolk County Council. Picture: Suffolk County Council.

“We need a firm grip on costs because when Haughley Junction is talked about the anticipated cost seems to rise all the time.”

The decision on the scheme lies with the DfT after a shake-up of the rail industry during Covid-19 meant decision on schemes like Haughley Junction were taken back in-house by the DfT rather than Network Rail.

Cllr Smith said that there were 'some three dozen container trains' leaving the Port of Felixstowe each day which were 'preventing many hundreds of HGV movements on our busy roads'.

Councillor Richard Smith. Picture: Suffolk County Council.
Councillor Richard Smith. Picture: Suffolk County Council.

The scheme plans to upgrade the single-track junction to a two-track layout that will help ease the bottleneck of freight.

Andrew Stringer, division councillor and leader of the opposition Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group, said: “I am broadly in support of this motion.

“The works at Haughley are quite difficult to carry out, one being the reason of geography.

“Suffolk is incredibly flat but the railway is actually in a cutting.”

He added that 'any investment in railways is a very, very good thing if it gets freight off the roads' but said that as the line is not electrified it would effectively move diesel emission from the A14 to the line, albeit with diesel locomotives being less of a polluter than diesel HGVs.

Sandy Martin from the Labour group said it would help reduce congestion on the county’s roads and is an 'essential step to deal with the climate crisis'.