A 1.4km passing loop between Trimley and Nacton is finally finished according to information from Network Rail, but won’t be fully operational until new timetabling comes in later in the year. Passengers and Travel Watch campaigners have also been assured that this will improve services between Ipswich and Felixstowe for them too.
Given that nine times out of ten the train between Ipswich and Felixstowe seems to have been cancelled whenever I try to use it – I wait with interest to see if there will be improvements. A reliable service is all any of us ask for. If we wanted to go by bus we would surely have paid the lower price for that!
Work began in April 2018 with Network Rail investing £65m to transform the single track Felixstowe branch line by installing 1.4km track loop near Trimley station, with additional funding from The Port of Felixstowe also helping to pay for the upgrade.
This will enable the Port to increase the number of freight trains it handles by 30% and open up fresh connections to the north of England.
The Port currently puts more than one million standard-sized boxes on the rails each year – treble what it was sending by train 20 years ago., but now it is aiming to double that to two million boxes, with an increase of the current capacity of 66 daily train movements to 90 train movements a day.
In addition to the track re-doubling, works has include the upgrade of several level crossings to make them safer and new bi-directional signalling infrastructure to support the demand for more freight trains, and the closure of six pedestrian level crossings in Trimley, at significant cost to those who live round them. A new bridleways bridge at Gun Lane has also been constructed to maintain safe public access across the railway – but so far has had a mixed reception.
Port officials say the environmental benefits of rail freight are widely recognised and have a key role to play in meeting government environmental targets.
They say the current freight sent from the port’s three rail terminals save more than 100 million lorry miles each year, reducing road congestion, pollution, and improving environmental performance.
The ability to serve 90 trains a day is part of plans to expand services to the north of the country. Some 70% of containers coming through the port are destined for the north and midlands.
Combined with this will be the development of a new generation of inland terminal facilities to offer port customers new distribution opportunities – one of which is the bitterly opposed 300-acre business park at Innocence Farm at Kirton – which incidentally FelixstoweSpy understands is initially earmarked for additional logistic holding and storage for deliveries to the Sizewell C project, and as such may be more difficult to oppose.
Further up the line, four other level crossings have been successfully upgraded to make crossing the railway safer for all in the Suffolk area.
Roads have reopened to traffic at Westerfield after seven weeks of work marking the completion of level crossing upgrades at Morston Hall, Thorpe Lane, Levington and Westerfield.
The completion of the upgrade work at Westerfield and Thorpe Lane comes a few months after drivers were caught misusing these level crossings by not stopping for the red warning light and barriers.
At Westerfield, a driver was caught driving through a red light live on camera in October 2018 as a journalist was reporting on Network Rail’s safety campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of misusing level crossings. The driver was caught and ordered to undertake an awareness course.
Another driver was convicted earlier this month for recklessly putting himself and his 18-month old daughter at the time of the incident in danger by swerving around the barriers at Trimley St Martin in Suffolk, both miraculously surviving a crash with a freight train in June 2018.
He admitted endangering safety and was jailed for 16 months, suspended for a year, and given 240 hours of community service and a two-year driving ban.
Drivers are reminded that anyone caught failing to comply with signs at a level crossing can face a fine of up to £1,000 and 3 points on their license, and if they are found guilty of careless driving, they face a fine of up to £1000 and 9 points on their license.
If convicted of dangerous driving, the maximum penalty is two years in prison and a fine.