Felixstowe to Nuneaton capacity and gauge enhancements
Implementation of the initial phase of the SRA funded Felixstowe to Nuneaton project will be
completed by November 2004. This will enable 9’6” high containers to be carried on standard freight wagons to and from the ports of Felixstowe and Tilbury to the West Coast Main Line in London and onwards to the Midlands, North West and Scotland. This phase will also specifically gauge clear lines to the potential future port developments at Bathside Bay, Harwich and Shellhaven as well a the route from Nuneaton to the inland container terminals at Hams Hall and Lawley Street in the Birmingham conurbation.
However, the issues surrounding route capacity remain. Demand for freight paths from Felixstowe continues to grow and consequently the need to address the conflicts between container traffic and passenger schemes in the London area such as Crossrail and the North London Line metro remain.
Whilst the SRA are still not in a position to fund works on the whole cross-country phase of the
Felixstowe – Nuneaton scheme it should be noted that the SRA has provided funding for gauge
clearance development studies between Ipswich and Peterborough as part of a scheme to provide a 9’6” high container route to Yorkshire via the East Coast Main Line
The SRA intends to develop and implement the following:
• works to clear the route to W12 gauge, to permit use of 9ft 6in high deep sea containers/swap-bodies and 9ft 6in high, 2.6m wide European intermodal units on 1,000mm deck-height wagons throughout between the Port of Felixstowe and the West Coast Main Line (WCML) at Nuneaton
• works to provide capacity sufficient to accommodate 30-40 freight trains per day in each direction by 2010, to meet projected demand between East Anglia and the Midlands/North Gauge and capacity improvements will help retain existing volumes of approximately 330,000 containers each year on rail to/from the Port of Felixstowe (which would progressively be lost, as standard container heights increase to 9ft 6in, without these improvements) and should absorb continuing growth in the deep sea and short sea intermodal markets. An additional benefit is the release of extra paths on the existing routes of the Great Eastern, North London Line and WCML South of Nuneaton for passenger and/or freight growth in these regions. The capacity benefits of this project are dependent upon availability of a proportion of the additional 42 paths South of Crewe, due to be provided by the West Coast Route Modernisation (WCRM), to provide viable through transits.
The SRA and Network Rail announced on the 24th August 2004 that the key rail freight corridor between Nuneaton and Birmingham is now open for 9’ 6" high container traffic on standard wagons.
The £2.25 million project - specified and funded by the SRA and delivered by Network Rail - opens up the key terminals of Hams Hall (operated by ABP Connect) and Lawley Street (operated by Freightliner), to the market for bigger, 9’ 6" high rather than 8’ 6" high boxes. The project will enhance the competitiveness of these terminals and the region, safeguarding jobs and attracting new business. Traffic is anticipated to begin running on the upgraded route by October this year.
The work, which has involved reconstruction of Station Road bridge at Whitacre Heath and the lowering of track through Shustoke Road bridge, is the second completed element of the £40 million Felixstowe to Nuneaton (F2N) project, which will connect a number of east coast ports to terminals along the West Coast Main Line by the end of 2004.
Further gauge enhancement work is being carried out between Felixstowe and Ipswich, Ipswich/Harwich and London, and Crewe and Manchester, allowing ports and terminals such as Felixstowe, Daventry and Manchester Trafford Park to handle more of these bigger boxes by the end of 2004.
Jonathan Riley, SRA Executive Director, Freight,said:
"Exploiting the market for 9’ 6" high boxes is a priority for rail freight in the UK. The completion of work on the Nuneaton-Birmingham corridor further increases the capability of the railway and the competitiveness of rail freight, benefiting customers now and in the future."