When the Port of Felixstowe was given planning permission for the expansion of Landguard Terminal (Felixstowe South, Berths 8 & 9) a condition was they dualled the railway between Trimley and Levington. The recession of 2008 delayed the expansion of the port and the work on the railway didn't start as expected.
Over the last two years, however, work at the port has been taking place; a new quay has been built and ULCVs* have been bringing containers from the Far East. This work is continuing and Berth 8 can now handle two ULCVs simultaneously.
Two further developments have taken place since the original 106 agreement (Planning Condition) was imposed. Firstly, the so-called Bacon Curve** - which in the early years of the 21st century was ‘undeliverable' - has been built and is operational. Trains can now run from Felixstowe straight through to Haughley junction, Peterborough and beyond.
Secondly, it has become apparent that with the increased traffic (now 31 container trains each day - in each direction) the bottleneck is the Westerfield junction. The single track Felixstowe line branching off the double track of the East Suffolk Line means freight trains bound for the port are held on the East Suffolk Line delaying passenger trains bound for Lowestoft. The Port of Felixstowe has applied, quite reasonably, for changes to the original 106 agreement in order to spend the money earmarked in a more effective way:
i) to extend the port's Northern Feed Line which joins the Felixstowe main line at Trimley Station, effectively dualling the track as far as Keepers Lane Crossing, (i.e. creating a passing loop).
ii) to create a passing loop on the site of the original Orwell Station, (there was a passing loop here when the railway was first constructed; private trains could wait at the station for Colonel George Tomline to arrive from his nearby mansion, Orwell Park (today, the public school), whilst trains to or from Felixstowe ran through).
iii) to reorganise the junction at Westerfield to create a length of double track as far as Tuddenham Road bridge, a passing loop on which freight trains can wait without blocking the Lowestoft line.
To complete this third option it was originally planned to move Westerfield Station to the west side of the level crossing: a new station for Ipswich Garden Suburb. The engineers have, however, overcome the design restrictions, the minimum curve and the loading gauge width requirements to incorporate the new track without moving the station. Ipswich planners and the Ipswich Society are disappointed. Network Rail describes the ongoing redesign as ‘descoping'; we simply despair. How do we explain to our children that we built an estate of 3,500 houses with a railway running through the middle but without passenger trains stopping?
And don't hold your breath; this work is scheduled to take place over the next ten years.
*Ultra Large Container Vessels, ships carrying 18,000 or more TEUs (Twenty foot Equivalent Units).
**The Bacon Curve (‘The Bacon Factory Curve', ‘The Ipswich Chord') is so called because it crosses the site of the old Harris Bacon Factory site in Hadleigh Road. A new short length of line allows west-bound trains from Felixstowe to join the London-Norwich line in a northerly direction.