The Orwell Bridge is a “major bottleneck” affecting road freight to Felixstowe, a government report on England’s port connectivity has concluded.
The Study of England’s Port Connectivity, launched at a British Port Association, said better road and rail links to English ports would help boost productivity, lower costs and provide access to international markets. Between 2014 and 2019, £235m was invested in improving rail links and £23bn to improve England’s roads.
The report highlights the increased tonnage handled by the Haven ports of Felixstowe, Ipswich and Harwich, which have seen a rise of 9% over the last five years, while container traffic has soared by 19% and dry bulk, mainly from Ipswich, by 26% over the same period.
“Ports in the Haven region anticipate potential for strong future growth in rail freight, though at present there are capacity constraints which limit this,” the report says. Harwich was planning to create an international container terminal, Felixstowe was planning berth developments and Ipswich was set to create additional storage for bulks.
But there was a “lack of resilience” on key road routes, including the A12 and A14, which were identified as “particular concerns”, the study stated.
The A14, the main route for around 70% of road freight to Felixstowe, had no hard shoulder, meaning accidents could lead to delays. The Orwell bridge was “ a major bottleneck on the A14 route, at capacity during peak periods”. Enhancement was needed in the medium term, with feasibility work “urgently required”. The A12 suffered congestion at peak periods, and again, no hard shoulders, while the A120 to Harwich was single carriageway for eight miles to the port.
About 30% of freight passing through Felixstowe moves by rail, making national networks important, it said. The port is England’s largest for lift on lift off (Lo-Lo) containers, accounting for 41% of total tonnage, while Harwich is England’s sixth largest roll-on, roll-off (Ro-Ro) port. Ipswich specialises in dry bulks and aggregates.
It said a passing loop was needed to enable freight to pass more easily between Felixstowe and Ipswich, and a siding would improve operational efficiency at Ipswich, increasing train length and enabling greater tonnage to move by rail.