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Government puts £132M into four rail freight schemes

The Department for Transport is to fund £132M of rail freight improvements designed to remove around 300,000 lorry journeys from Britain's roads every year.

The bulk of the cash will go on two schemes - an £80M gauge and capacity enhancement on the Peterborough to Nuneaton route which brings freight into London and £43M to enhance the gauge on the key Southampton to Nuneaton corridor, which links one of the UK's major ports with Birmingham, the north west and Scotland through the West Coast Main Line.

The £80M for the Peterborough to Nuneaton route will fund enhancement works to clear the line to W10 gauge. This will enable the route to carry 9ft 6" high cube containers, which otherwise require specialist rail wagons or have to be carried by road. The scheme will improve access to Felixstowe port and provide an alternative route to the West Coast Main Line, bypassing London. The scheme also provides funding for a new east to north chord at Nuneaton, allowing trains to continue northwards without conflicting with the West Coast Main Line, subject to legal consent. The scheme will also receive £5M from Network Rail and £1M from East of England Regional Development Agency.

The £42.83M grant for the Southampton to the West Coast Main Line route will also enable W10 gauge clearance for high cube containers. The scheme will allow existing freight capacity to be used more efficiently. Works will take place on three sections, between Southampton and Leamington Spa via Basingstoke and Reading; between Leamington and Nuneaton; and between Leamington and Birmingham. This scheme will also receive £5.45M from Associated British Ports and £6.28M from two Regional Development Agencies (SEEDA and AWM).

A further £8M will increase capacity on the link between the Humber Ports and the East Coast Main Line and £1.7M will be spent to improve access between the West Coast Main Line and Liverpool Docks by reinstating a new section of track and enhancing the gauge on two rail routes.

The Humber Ports schemes will provide additional capacity for bulk imports from the East Coast, including the import of coal to power stations in the Aire and Trent Valleys. The project is also being funded by Network Rail (£17.45M), EDF Energy (£10M), Yorkshire Forward RDA (£9.5M), and Associated British Ports (£3M). The gauge enhancement scheme for two routes from the Port of Liverpool to the West Coast Main Line will include the reinstallation of the 300m Mount Olive Chord and works on the branch to Liverpool docks. The Department's contribution is alongside £3.82M from Network Rail, £3.6M from Regional Development Agencies (Northern Way and ERDF), £2M from Merseytravel and £750,000 from Peel Holdings.

"This improved infrastructure we are funding will make a significant contribution to reducing road congestion, carbon and environmental emissions, as well as supporting the future growth of our economy. In this way everyone wins," said transport minister Tom Harris.

All four schemes have been rated as delivering high value for money by the Department for Transport. Network Rail will start the construction of these projects in early 2008, enabling all schemes to be completed by 2011.

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