Port bosses hail crucial new link.
A NEW rail link from Teesport to Scotland will take larger container units direct from ship to northern distribution centre in the first stage of PD Port's strategy to integrate the port with the national network.
Port bosses and rail freight operator EWS have announced the introduction of the high-cube capacity container service from Teesport to Mossend and Grangemouth in central Scotland.
It means the port will now be able to handle freight by rail which arrives on the Tees in newer, taller 9ft 6in containers.
Martyn Pellew, group development director for PD Ports, said while an "important step in the right direction", multi-million-pound improvements to the UK's rail network were still crucial if the port is to reach the full potential of the pounds 300m Northern Gateway deep sea container terminal project.
The new service has been given approval by Network Rail to operate until the end of September, 2009, although it will operate with limitations on speed through several existing bottlenecks.
"This new service from Teesport to Scotland is good news but is very much an intermediate situation," said Mr Pellew.
"Our ability to offer this new service is only the first phase of what we hope to achieve.
"We still need the overall and full rail gauge enhancement for both the Teesport spur to the East Coast Main Line and also for the ECML in either direction north through Newcastle and into Scotland as well as south to Yorkshire and the Midlands.
"If we are to achieve the full potential of the Northern Gateway Container Terminal and for much greater use of rail rather than road transport for onward inland movements then we must see full rail gauge enhancement being authorised as soon as possible."
Railway improvements need to be made to the UK network to allow trains to handle bigger, taller containers.
This means in some areas work needs to be done, such as lowering the track, raising bridges and improving platforms, for this to happen.
Mr Pellew added: "We anticipate pounds 40m of investment is needed in the rail network.
"But this announcement is certainly a step in the right direction for us.
"It is a long, long way from what we really want.
"British industry has been demanding a rail route to Scotland from Teesport that can accommodate high-cube containers.
"We are delighted that with EWS we have now delivered the first breakthrough service."
ON TRACK FOR THE FUTURE: Teesport bosses have announced a high-cube capacity container railway service to Scotland