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Felixstowe banks on rail connectivity investments

Felixstowe banks on rail connectivity investments
Colonel George Tomline, a bevy of Victorian ladies, a steam locomotive and a vintage car all put in an appearance alongside acrobats, roller skaters and a robot at the royal opening of the Port of Felixstowe's new £40m North Rail Terminal. The message to guests was clear – Felixstowe has been on the map for a long time and it is also ready for the future.

Tomline was the prominent local landowner and politician who first formed the Felixstowe Railway and Pier Company in 1875, setting out his plans to transform what was then a small seaside village into a rail-linked deepwater port.

The original dock basin, which he needed an Act of Parliament to dig, is now filled in and part of Felixstowe's deepwater Berths 8 and 9, opened in 2011 but, as Clemence Cheng, chief executive of Hutchison Ports UK, said: "Railway has been at the heart of our operations from the beginning."

The new North Rail Terminal doubles the port's rail capacity and has been built to handle trains up to 35 wagons long. Its construction also means that Felixstowe now has more rail tracks than King's Cross station.

The facility was officially opened by the Duke of York, who admitted that the term 'intermodal' was new to him, but clearly picked up that longer trains can make moving containers by rail cost effective at shorter distances.

"Today is about connectivity, using the rail network to connect businesses in the UK with businesses around the world through the import and export of goods and services," he said.

"Coming here today and seeing how Felixstowe is taking the challenge of delivering goods and services for British importers and exporters to the next level is really encouraging."

The opening of the terminal will lead to the launch of a 30th daily container train service for Felixstowe (or 60th, if you count both ways).

Of course, rail freight services are dependent on what goes on beyond the port as well, and Felixstowe has had a long wait for upgrades to the main freight route from the port to the Midlands. The cross-country Felixstowe to Nuneaton line (known as F2N) is vital because it links the port with the main West Coast and East Coast main lines without going via London.

Ian Woodman, maritime director at the Department for Transport, highlighted investments such as £150m on the Nuneaton North Chord, which is a rail flyover completed last year, with more F2N projects to come.

He said: "The efficient movement of goods through our ports and on to their final destination is critically important to this nation's economy and the availability of a range of transport choices for moving goods including a choice that reduces environmental impacts and congestion on our roads has to be good for shippers and good for the country. This delivers against all these objectives."

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