The Ipswich Chord is very much an initiative of Local Government. Ipswich Borough Council has argued since the early 1990’s for a link from Felixstowe to the midlands for freight trains that avoided reversal at Ipswich. Originally conceived as a joint project with a northern road bypass, IBC were successful in getting it included in the County Structure Plan.
The project was doomed when the by-pass was deleted by the then secretary of state (John Gummer) but by 2000 had been revived in a different form when Cllr Phil Smart surveyed the former Harris site on Hadleigh Road. and drew up the present scheme. With support from Felixstowe Port, the Rail Freight Group and the (then) Strategic Rail Authority it was reinstated in the structure plan and Ipswich Local Plan in spite of ‘Railtrack’ (later Network Rail) showing little enthusiasm for the project.
After much persuasion, Network Rail was convinced of the need for this line and announced their intention to proceed in the autumn of 2009.
Ipswich Borough Portfolio Holder for Environment & Transport Cllr Phil Smart said “Today sees the culmination of a long campaign but also the start of another one. We call upon the minister to announce the electrification of the route from Felixstowe to Birmingham and the long overdue scheme for ‘dualling’ the line to Felixstowe. The new chord and recent expansion of rail capacity at Felixstowe will be wasted unless capacity is increased along this branch line.”
Sandra Gage Labour Spokesperson for Transport said; “With the national forecast rail tonne-km set to double between 2010 and 2030, the need for Ipswich Chord to take this growing rail freight and remove its impact on Ipswich rail travel is obvious. I applaud the foresight of Ipswich Borough Council in seizing the opportunity to do this, allocating the bacon factory site, and staying firm in its commitments when nationally the support was not there.”
East of England Labour MEP Richard Howitt has also welcomed the new chord – although he was disappointed that his party’s contribution had not been recognised.
He said: “Although I am disappointed that Network Rail chose not to invite me today as one of the key MEPs who lobbied successfully to get the rail improvements being celebrated today, I remain satisfied that businesses and commuters will enjoy better rail journeys in the future thanks partially to Labour action in the European Parliament.
“The Government was happy to accept the European money and it is ungracious for them to seek short term political credit for a lot of investment in which we all played a part.”