The ability to move the new generation of high cube containers by rail out of the Norths East Coast Ports is a step nearer.
The Northern Way has committed £1m in commissioning Network Rail to develop detailed plans for the gauge enhancement of rail routes from Teesport to the East Coast Main Line, as well as the Ports of Hull and Immingham to the East Coast Main Line.
Professor David Begg, Chairman of the Northern Way Transport Group said: "The Norths ports have grown rapidly over the last ten years and have increased their market share of UK port traffic. Looking ahead to their future growth, we need to ensure that the rail network is fit for purpose and capable of moving the new generation of larger containers."
"The world is moving to a new standard size of larger format "high cube" containers. In another ten years at least 50% of containers arriving in the UK will be high cube but at present you just cannot move them on standard wagons out of the Norths East Coast Ports."
"A top priority for the Northern Way is therefore to ensure that it is possible to move high cube containers to markets in the Midlands and Scotland from the Tees and the Humber. We are working closely with Network Rail and the ports to make this happen by 2014. Bringing forward detailed designs for the work that needs to be done on the routes from Teesport, Immingham and Hull to the East Coast Main Line is an important part of that"
The work on the rail line connecting Teesport to the East Coast Main Line at Darlington has been identified as a regional priority.
Regional Development Agency One North East and partners including Tees Valley Unlimited and PD Ports are currently finalising how to deliver the next stage of the project – to complete the works identified by this Northern Way study through the Tees Valley Industrial Programme (TVIP).
Jim Darlington, One North Easts Chief Regional Planner, said: "Teesport and the logistics industries that it supports are both major drivers of the Tees Valley economy.
"Increasing the capacity to move freight by rail from the port will attract significantly more activity to Teesport, which in turn will result in new investment and new jobs, and will also take a significant amount of traffic off our roads. It will also form a major part of the wider Tees Valley Industrial Programme, helping us move towards a low carbon economy."
David Robinson, Group CEO of PD Ports which owns Teesport, says he is delighted that the Northern Way has committed £1m to the rail upgrade project. "This acknowledges the essential role which Teesport plays as a key economic driver in the Tees Valley and the whole of the North-east region. An upgraded rail link is vital to connect Teesport to the rest of the UK rail network for freight distribution. In the longer term this will attract further inward investment to the region, creating new jobs and increasing skills."
Hugh Lang, the Chair of Tees Valley Unlimited, welcomed the development. He said: "This marks the start of the next stage of this important improvement project which will support the growth of Teesport – one of our major economic assets.
"It will allow us to offer a greater range of onward distribution by rail, while also contributing to lower carbon emissions. Alongside the Tees Valley Metro project, rail will continue to play an important role in connecting our city-region."
One North East and the Government have pledged £60m to support the Tees Valleys transition to low carbon and advanced manufacturing industries through the Tees Valley Industrial Programme.
The Tees Valley Industrial Programme is also supporting companies through Solutions for Business – the Governments package of publicly funded support products offering help to companies to start, grow and succeed. Solutions for Business makes it easier for companies to get the advice and assistance that they need.
Hugh Morgan Williams, Chair of the Northern Way said: "The Northern port cities can secure a strong economic future, by offering the right conditions for business, and capturing the benefits of global trade. They need access to a comprehensive national freight network, capable of moving goods without adding more congestion on the motorway network.
"This commitment by the Northern Way will help contribute to the delivery of that national network, and bring benefits to internationally-trading businesses across the North and in particular helps the Tees and Humber ports to attract more of the highly competitive container traffic."