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PD Ports slams rail decision

The reported decision to upgrade the 76-mile Trans-Pennine route between Leeds and Manchester at a cost of £3b without any provision for freight traffic is both unwelcome and deeply troubling for the economy and businesses in the North of England, according to port operator PD Ports.

Based in Middlesbrough, PD Ports operate Teesport, a major deep-water complex and one of the largest container ports in the North of England. It also operates multiple ports in the Humber region.

PD Ports stated that the Trans-Pennine route is a key element in its own development and capacity provisions need to take into consideration the growing demand for freight movements, which allow major northern links to become viable. It is urging that both the DfT and Chris Grayling reconsider this exclusion and make the right decision on behalf of a growing UK economy.

In a statement regarding the approval of the route PD Ports said: "After more than two years of assurances from the Department for Transport that rail freight was to be an integral part of the scheme, this decision represents a concerning last-minute reversal that would serve to negatively impact the growth prospects of the region.

"The demand for freight in the region is clear and measurable. Teesport experienced more growth in volume than any other UK port in 2017 with a number of record-breaking results at its container terminal facilities, handling more than half a million TEUs (twenty foot equivalent unit) a year. In November 2014, a £3m+ intermodal rail terminal opened at the port, initially designed to service existing container business which has delivered consistent growth in volumes of some 12% year-on-year for the last seven years. This growth was a catalyst in PD Ports’ decision to build the rail terminal, which continues to see a significant modal shift amongst customers with rail volumes surpassing 40,000 units mat (moving annual total) with an anticipated 50% uplift by 2029."

"There is a significant demand from our customers to be able to move freight east to west through this Northern corridor allowing shorter distances to be covered by rail. Without a viable alternative route for rail freight with the necessary capacity and gauge, the growth we are experiencing will be limited and at risk of reducing due to transport restrictions."

"It is already clear that the ongoing lack of HGV drivers is impeding supply chains in the UK and constraining the growth and development of our ports. Therefore this proposed decision to remove an alternative option of rail transport for freight, could have a devastating effect on freight distribution, particularly once Brexit has reached its conclusion in March 2019."

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