Overcrowded roads is a big issue. On the A14 and across the East of England we often hear of accidents involving lorries. We need local freight but I would love to get some long distance trucks off our major trunk roads and give containers the option to travel by rail... OK, I may be turning into a bit of a train spotter but I hope that today's meeting moved this a step closer.
The upgrade of the main East-West railway for freight from the Eastern port of Felixstowe all the way to Nuneaton in the Midlands, would give container traffic the ability to intersect with East and West Coast mainlines as well as Midland mainlines.
Two years ago this didn't even seem on the political agenda- and the Department for Transport allowed bid deadlines for EU funding to slip by into sidings. Many local politicians have now said they would like to go full steam ahead with the upgrade but only 4 local councillors attended today's meeting (were they not aware of it?). Geoffrey Van Orden, Conservative MEP, sent a representative to help shunt the project along with some EU cash.
In the UK we are more than entitled to bid for EU funds (after all its our money). I want to see this project happen - but if the British tax payer is going to fund most of it then lets get our fair share of the EU funds to help.
This is not an expensive project (at least not compared to a new road!). Today's meeting was with Network Rail, Department for Transport and various others. £50 million pounds has been committed by DfT for the bridge improvements- (so the trucks can get under the 30 affected bridges...only 30 in hundreds of miles). Bridge work will be completed within 2 years. There are still pinch points... how to navigate Ipswich... (we were promised an answer on that next month) and signaling problems in Leicester - this could take 5-6 years... surely if this was a real priority it could happen faster?
A bid will go into the EU in June but only for the bridge works. Yet again bidding for EU grants for infrastructure seems pretty low on the UK government priority.
Next time you are stuck behind a slow moving foreign container lorry on our ludicrously over crowded roads think about the computers in the signal box in Leicester.....