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SEEDA partnership delivers multi-million pound rail

INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS FOR SOUTH HAMPSHIRE AND THE WEST MIDLANDS. SEEDA is catalyst for freight modernisation programme to deliver a major economic boost regionally and nationally

The South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) and its partners are delighted to learn that they have been successful in leveraging £42.83m through the Transport Innovation Fund programme (TiF-P) from the Department for Transport (DfT) for the Solent to Midlands Advancement of Rail Transport (SMART) project to enable a crucial programme to widen the gauge on rail track between South Hampshire and the Midlands, the UK's major freight corridor, in order to ensure that new, larger containers can be carried by rail, thereby increasing the line's capacity.

SEEDA has been the catalyst in unlocking this Government funding through the Transport Innovation Fund programme (TiF-P) and has provided leadership in developing third party and private sector funding contributions. The core delivery partners, including the Department for Transport (DfT), SEEDA and Advantage West Midlands (AWM) in a joint RDA partnership, Network Rail, ABP and SCT each contributed a substantial financial amount to the project. The wider SMART group partnership included a number of shipping lines, Freightliner and EWS.

The approval is great news for the people of Southampton and urban South Hampshire, as the proportion of freight transported on the congested M27 and A34 will be reduced. The move from road to rail will also achieve environmental benefits in terms of reduced carbon emissions, thereby lowering the region's ecological footprint. It is estimated that reduced congestion on the roads in the Southampton and Winchester area alone will generate an increase of £13.6m in gross domestic product (GDP).

SEEDA Chief Executive, Pam Alexander says: “The SMART scheme is an essential infrastructure project to address the constraints of our congested and growing city catchments, key inter-urban corridors and economic gateways to global markets, as discussed in Sir Rod Eddington's Review. It will contribute to all three of the objectives in the Regional Economic Strategy for the South East in ensuring that the continued global competitiveness and productivity of one of the UK's top container ports is able to be achieved in a sustainable way, keeping freight movements off the roads of the South East and the West Midlands. The Port of Southampton is a major player in regional and UK economic performance, so we are delighted that the project has full approval to go ahead.”

Doug Morrison, ABP Port Director, Southampton, said: “We are absolutely overjoyed that Government has given the go-ahead for this funding. The improvements to the port's rail-freight capabilities will be hugely beneficial, not only for the port and its users, but also for the City of Southampton and for the millions of people who ultimately rely on the port as a major hub for the import and export of goods.”

Campbell Mason, Managing Director of Southampton Container Terminals Ltd. (SCT) said; “The Government's approval to award TIF funding to this project is fantastic news and will benefit all links in the supply chain. Road users and the local community will benefit through seeing less lorries on the approach roads to the terminal.”

Network Rail route director David Pape said: “This funding represents a huge opportunity for rail-freight and Network Rail will now begin delivery of the project, working with all parties to carry out the enhancements to enable this opportunity to become reality.”

Lord Tony Berkeley, Chairman of the Rail Freight Group says; “We congratulate SEEDA on its role in helping achieve such a successful outcome for rail freight. It provides the opportunity to reduce HGV traffic on the A34 and M40 whilst boosting rail freight's market share on this important land route for deep sea containers. Since rail freight emits five times less carbon per tonne mile than road freight, this will help meet the Government's target for reducing carbon emissions from transport.”

John Denham, MP for Southampton Itchen, says: “This is a fantastic boost to Southampton. It is a real statement of Government confidence in the future prosperity and importance of our port on which so many jobs rely. I'm grateful to the Transport Ministers who have taken a personal interest in the development of the investment.”

The SMART scheme was recommended by SEEDA in March 2006, and Ministerial 'minded to' approval was granted in December 2006, subject to third party funding. Government approval and funding brings the scheme, which has been developed, engineered and discussed for 10 years, forward for implementation within 18 months. Construction on SMART is expected to commence in April 2008.

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