The Secretary of State for Transport has approved Network Rail’s Nuneaton North chord application.
Having received the Planning Inspector’s report, following a public local public inquiry held on the 9th and 10th March 2010, he has authorised Network Rail to build a new chord between the Arley Lines Railway and the West Coast Main Line (WCML) Railway together with an access road. The new chord would enable rail freight to join the northbound WCML without disrupting services on the WCML.
In his report, the Inspector noted that the proposed works would allow freight trains travelling to the north from the Haven Ports of Felixstowe and Harwich (Bathside Bay) to cross above the WCML at Nuneaton and join the northbound slow line without disrupting existing traffic on the WCML. The Inspector further noted that the rail route between the Haven Ports and the WCML was a key route identified in Network Rail’s Freight Route Utilisation Strategy.
Increasingly, intermodal freight is shipped in “High Cube” 9 feet 6 inch containers which can only be carried on rail lines which have been cleared to W10 gauge. The direct route from Felixstowe to the WCML, however, cannot currently take High Cube containers, therefore such rail freight has to be diverted via London in order to access the WCML. Gauge clearance to W10 between Felixstowe, Peterborough and Nuneaton is under way, which would enable High Cube freight to join the WCML at Nuneaton. This will free up passenger lines in North London and allow scope for the growth of rail freight traffic to the West Midlands, the North West and Scotland.
The Inspector considered that without the proposed chord the benefits of that upgrade could not be realised.
Thus it was concluded that the scheme would bring very substantial public benefits. These included allowing freight trains going north to access the WCML without travelling via London, freeing up capacity on the Great Eastern Main Line and the North London Line (“NLL”); providing benefits to timetable planning on the WCML; and providing capacity for long term growth in rail freight transport between the Haven Ports and the WCML, thereby avoiding the need for increased reliance on road freight. In addition, an early decision to make the Order would enable reliability to be improved on the NLL (and the GOBLIN) at a time when it would be serving the 2012 Olympics.
The Secretary of State noted that the proposed chord railway would allow freight trains to join the WCML, in a northerly direction, without needing to cross three lines of the WCML on the level and agrees with the Inspector that the proposed development would, in combination with the upgrading works for rail freight traffic taking place between Felixstowe and Nuneaton, bring very substantial public benefits not only to Nuneaton but also to North London. The order has been made subject to the imposition of a number of planning restrictions designed to mitigate the impact on the environment and the users of the Coventry Canal.