Thames Gateway Minister, Bob Neill, has officially opened a new £13.5 million freight link from the North Kent Line to the former Lafarge Cement Works at Northfleet. The new freight line will initially be used to transport excavated material from the construction of Crossrail’s tunnels from London by rail rather than by road.
To mark the official opening, the Minister along with invited guests, travelled in a special passenger train from London Victoria into Lafarge's Northfleet site via the reinstated rail link.
Exactly one year after his first visit to the then empty brownfield site, the Minister viewed the significant progress that has been made over the last 12 months to reinstate the railway, construct a new connection to the North Kent Line, and receive the first trainloads of Crossrail excavated material from London. The length of the new freight line is around 2.25km with 4.75km of new track provided.
At Northfleet the excavated material will be transferred to ship for the final part of its journey along the Thames to a new RSPB nature reserve at Wallasea Island in Essex.
Thames Gateway Minister Bob Neill said: "I'm delighted to be here at the celebrations for the reopening of this vital rail line. Infrastructure such as this is essential in allowing businesses to move goods and will help propel growth in this area.
"I saw this very site one year ago and the progress has been astonishing. Today I've been along the line and seen what it will do for the local economy. This project is now going to provide support for the building of Crossrail, proving that the Thames Gateway is well and truly open for business."
David Simms, Land and Planning Director for Lafarge Cement said: "Crossrail's involvement in Northfleet has been a major catalyst in enabling the construction of this new freight line which will play a leading role in transporting excavated material from the new tunnels. The new rail link forms the second stage of Lafarge’s regeneration of the 104-acre site where a new residential and business community will be created, enhancing Northfleet’s connections to the River Thames.
“In the medium term we hope to use the rail link to serve our existing cement terminal. When Crossrail tunnelling completes, we intend to construct a new Aggregates Terminal which could export up to 1.2m tonnes by rail per year when it is fully operational. It is hoped that this sustainable form of freight transport could facilitate further jobs and development in north west Kent.”
Chris Dulake, Crossrail’s Chief Engineer said: “More than 1 million tonnes of earth will be excavated during the construction of Crossrail's western tunnels between Royal Oak Portal and Farringdon. Transporting excavated material by train will remove at least 50,000 lorry journeys from central London as well as ensuring its use for environmental improvement including a major new RSPB nature reserve in Essex.”
Jorge Mendonça, Network Rail’s Crossrail Programme Director, said: “Our work to support this new rail link strengthens our aim of getting more freight removed from road onto rail to provide a faster, greener, safer, and more efficient and reliable way of transporting goods. Rail freight is predicted to grow by as much as 140% over the next 30 years. Without the railway, this growth would mean an extra 1.5 million lorry journeys on Britain’s roads each year. It is important to ensure that rail freight plays its part in supporting economic recovery and long-term sustainable growth.”
At the peak of tunnelling up to five freight trains a day will be operated by GB Railfreight from Westbourne Park in west London carrying a total of 7,000 tonnes of earth. Over 10,000 tonnes of excavated material has already been transported from London to Kent.
Gallery - Thames Gateway Minister officially opens Crossrail Northfleet Rail Link in Kent
For further information contact:
Crossrail Press Office on 020 3229 9552 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Network Rail: Media Relations (London & South East) on 020 3356 9166 or email email@example.com
GB Railfreight: Kaye Inglis of Woodhouse Communications on 01444 221000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editor:
Reinstatement of the freight line was delivered for Lafarge by Balfour Beatty Rail with support from Network Rail and Crossrail. The rail link was completed on time and with zero safety incidents.
Crossrail C300 western running tunnels contractor BFK (BAM / Ferrovial / Kier JV) appointed GB Railfreight, in February 2012, to transport excavated material from Royal Oak to Northfleet.
The special charter train from London Victoria to Northfleet was operated by GB Railfreight and Lafarge. This was the first time that a passenger train had ever visited the Northfleet site.
Crossrail tunnelling commenced on Thursday 3 May. The first trainload of excavated material from Crossrail’s Westbourne Park site left London for Kent on Friday 11 May.
GB Railfreight will dedicate two Class 66 locomotives as well as two sets of 27 JNA wagons to transport the excavated material. Each of the 54 wagons has a carrying capacity of 76.9 tonnes.
GB Railfreight has named one of the locos "Crossrail”. During the visit, the Minister also unveiled a commemorative 'buffer' plate that will be installed on the rail buffers at the site.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) will require 10 million tonnes of excavated material to create a new 1,500 acre nature reserve at Wallasea Island in Essex - one of the largest new wetland nature reserves in Europe for some 50 years. Crossrail will provide close to 4.5 million tonnes of excavated material to the RSPB. The remainder of Crossrail’s excavated material will be reused elsewhere.
The Crossrail route will pass through 37 stations and run 118 km (73 miles) from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, through new twin-bore 21 km (13 miles) tunnels to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. When Crossrail opens it will increase London's rail-based transport network capacity by 10%, supporting regeneration and cutting journey times across the city. Crossrail services are due to commence through central London in 2018.
Crossrail is being delivered by Crossrail Limited (CRL). CRL is a wholly owned subsidiary of Transport for London. Crossrail is jointly sponsored by the Department for Transport and Transport for London.