Network Rail and Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen have signed off a £1m investment to fund a study which will look at ways to improve the region’s rail freight network.
The funding will go towards resolving issues between Eaglescliffe to Northallerton branch of the East Coast Main Line, where low bridges and tunnels currently restrict the size of cargo containers that can be used.
The line carries containers travelling between Felixstowe and Teesport on a daily basis, with the largest containers taking a time consuming and costly detour via Darlington. If services are to expand to meet expected demand from the port, improvements between Eaglescliffe and Northallerton will be needed.
Network Rail is contributing £750k to the project, through its Strategic Freight Network which is funded by the Department for Transport, with a further £250k from the Tees Valley Combined Authority.
The cash will be used to find a workable solution to increasing the container sizes on the line.
Mayor Ben Houchen said:
“This investment isn’t eye catching or sexy, but it’s necessary to ensure is Teesport able to keep growing for decades to come.
“As we leave the EU and become an outward, globally trading nation once more, we need to throw our weight behind Teesport by ensuring our rail freight infrastructure is fit for purpose.
“We’ve already committed tens of millions to improve passenger services – with even more investment to come – but today’s investment with Network Rail will ensure our port is able to take advantage of the opportunities ahead.”
Jerry Hopkinson, Chief Operating Officer of PD Ports and Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnership member, commented:
“As we continue to increase the number of containers that travel to Teesport, these rail links will become all the more important.
“We are delighted work has begun to find an answer to the problems on the route, which will help futureproof the facility, boost productivity and help the whole of the Tees Valley’s economy.”
Aidan Talbott, Principal Programme Sponsor at Network Rail, added:
“We recognise the importance of this project to the local region and we are delighted to be working on this study which will look at ways we can improve freight routes between Eaglescliffe and Northallerton.
“This study is at an early stage and we look forward to working with the Tees Valley Combined Authority on this important project.”
Separately, PD Ports is now able to offer a viable alternative to using the increasingly congested European and UK hub ports with the launch of the Unifeeder new short-sea services that will offer direct routes from Antwerp and Dunkerque into Teesport and Grangemouth in Scotland.
This new service connecting Teesport with Dunkerque will open up road cargo across mainland Europe with shorter times and distances in and out of the UK.
Unifeeder is offering the new service from 15 August 2018 to complement its services linking Rotterdam with the ports of Felixstowe, Immingham and South Shields.
Kim Catterick, PD Ports’ General Manager Key Accounts & Customer Development, sees this new service as a real boost to business in the North East of England looking for fully multimodal door-to door solutions.
“Short-sea services are the lifeblood of our ports and this partnership with Unifeeder offers more routes in and out of Europe and into the UK. We have invested heavily into the region and more and more of our customers are searching for routes that offer direct access to their markets. Using Teesport with its excellent road and rail connections and in particular its well established daily Scottish rail service, opens up the north of England and Scotland; providing cross-channel services linking the Netherlands, Belgium, France and into Germany using road transport.
“We understand that customers want direct access and guaranteed schedules. There has been an increasing demand to move away from the congestion at some of the major European and UK ports and using Teesport, along with our other locations means we can partner with companies offering solutions that work for both the UK and mainland European customers.”