Following a number of objections – including one from SCDC planning over the site of a large bridleway bridge to be built to enable horses to cross over the line – the proposal to close six footpath crossings on the Felixstowe to Ipswich line will now be decided after a Public Inquiry.
The new project, due to be built in 2018-19, is a scaled down version of a scheme which has been in the pipeline for many years.
Original plans were expected to cost around £40million and involve the dualling of four-and-a-half miles of line between the station level crossing at Trimley St Mary to Potters Hole, at Seven Hills near Nacton, creating a loop to effectively allow two of the longest trains to pass, getting them in and out of the port faster and making maximum use of the track.
With new sidings at the port, the aim was to allow more than two freight trains per hour in both directions.
However, the huge costs and the need to negotiate with or issue compulsory purchase orders to 80 landowners has led to changes.
The passing loop will now be just under a mile in length and will run from the station to around Grimston Lane.
Rail chiefs say the scheme will allow the port to run up to 47 freight services a day instead of 33, taking hundreds of lorries off the A14, and have given an assurance the hourly passenger trains will not be affected.
The crossings affected are at Thorpe Common, Gun Lane, Keepers Lane/Gaymers Lane, two at Morston Hall and Grimston Lane. The bridleway bridge is proposed at Gun lane.
The Public Inquiry will take place from Jan 22nd – Feb 2nd 2018 at Ipswich Town Football Club.
SCDC have objected to the site of the bridleway bridge and ‘its mass, form, scale and potential significant adverse impact on the landscape in the location proposed, in particular, its location is considered to have a significantly adverse impact on the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the rural farmland landscape’. They have also received objections from horse riders who say they will not use the bridge as it would be too frightening for the horses.
Suffolk County Council have not objected to the works – but have recognised the need for a public inquiry.
There is an existing Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO) for improvements to the Felixstowe Branch Line including dualling of the track between Westerfield and Felixstowe. Network Rail are working in partnership with The Port of Felixstowe on the project which has been ongoing for some years.