ELEVEN East Anglian MPs and four members of the House of Lords turned up at Great George Street last Wednesday in response to an invitation from the East Anglian Association. They heard Freightliner strategy director Bob Goundry describe the problems of and opportunities for shipping containers by rail from the port of Felixstowe, which handles 40% of all containers in and out of the UK. More than 20% of these travel by rail, nearly 250,000 in all.
'The A14 would be a lot more congested if all these had to go by road,' Goundry pointed out. 'Currently we run 13 trains each way every day. We would like to increase our throughput to 450,000 units a year by 2009 - if the rail network can cope.'
He added there were two main restrictions to growth. 'In the short term, it is the bottlenecks on the existing network. But even when these get sorted out we still face the problem of more and faster passenger trains running later at night and earlier in the morning, leaving even less space for our freight trains.'
In response to a question from Lowestoft MP Bob Blizzard, Goundry said Railtrack believed that with current levels of investment, it would be able to accommodate only four years of projected growth in rail freight.
He added: 'In the longer term, investment needs to recognise the safety and environmental benefits to non-users. Even our smokiest old diesel locomotive emits only 20% of the CO2 of the equivalent number of lorries.'