Eighteen months of work to upgrade the Felixstowe branch starts on April 7.
Network Rail’s £60.4 million project involves installing a new loop (just under a mile in length) between Trimley and Grimston Lane foot crossing, and upgrading four level crossings with obstacle detection (OD) technology at Morston Hall, Thorpe Lane, Levington and Westerfield station.
NR has applied for powers to close six level crossings in the Trimley area and construct a new bridleway bridge, with a public inquiry due to determine the outcome in the autumn.
In 2008 and 2014, Hutchisons Ports UK was granted powers to build a second track for 7km (4.3 miles) along the branch. These powers transferred to NR.
Installing the new line will create capacity for up to ten additional freight trains, each the equivalent of 76 lorries.
“This is a significant upgrade to one of the most important freight routes in the country,” said Network Rail Anglia Route Managing Director Meliha Duymaz.
“This work will help us to meet the demand for freight to and from Felixstowe port and, at the same time, increase reliability for passenger services. The long-term strategy to move more freight by rail is good for the UK economy, and will lessen the traffic on busy roads like the A14.”
NR Managing Director for Freight and National Passenger Operators Paul McMahon said: “The £60m investment by the Strategic Freight Network is set to deliver an additional ten paths in each direction by 2019. We know that there is more work to do on this busy corridor, and we will continue to make the case for investment alongside our industry colleagues.”
Clemence Cheng, managing director at Hutchison Ports Europe, said: “The works to improve the branch line will support sustainable UK economic growth and improve access to international markets for businesses across the country.”
During the work, which will mostly take place at weekends, buses will replace trains between Ipswich and Felixstowe from 1850 on Saturdays and all-day Sundays. Bank Holiday services will also be bus-operated.