Felixstowe South reconfiguration inspector's report
The effect of the proposed development on safety and the free flow of traffic and its consistency with national transport planning policies
3.144 A Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA) (contained in Documents CD/HP/112/1 to CD/HP/112/3) was submitted with the planning application for the Felixstowe South Reconfiguration in October 2003. As indicated in paragraph 3.33 above, addenda to the TIA were submitted (Documents CD/HP/112/4 to CD/HP/112/8 inclusive) in October 2004.
3.145 The operational road traffic impacts arising from the proposals are agreed in Document SCG/12 (which is signed by the Promoters, the Highways Agency and the County Council) as being those which arise on the A14(T) between and including the A14(T)/A154 Walton Avenue Dock Gate No 1 Roundabout and the A14(T)/A12(T)/A1214 Copdock Interchange, which lies to the south west of Ipswich.
3.146 The A14(T) Port of Felixstowe Road is a dual carriageway road, which connects the Dock Gate No 1 Roundabout (at its southern end) with the A14(T)/A154 Candlet Road Dock Spur Roundabout (at its northern end). Access to the Port of Felixstowe is taken from the Dock Gate No 1 Roundabout.
3.147 The Dock Spur Roundabout is an at grade junction, with long, straight, high speed approaches, little deflection of traffic before the roundabout give way lines, tight turn radii and a complex camber. Heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) approaching the roundabout from the west must make a 270 degrees turn around the roundabout to continue towards the Port.
3.148 To the west of the Dock Spur Roundabout, the A14(T) continues as a dual two lane all purpose trunk road towards Ipswich. The more major junctions on the A14(T) between Dock Spur Roundabout and the junction of the A12(T) at Ipswich are grade separated. The Copdock junction of the A14(T) and the A12(T) is one of these, with the A14 passing beneath the roundabout which connects to the A12(T) and the A1214.
3.149 The Highways Agency publishes an annually updated Route Management Strategy for the A14(T) (Felixstowe to Rugby) and for the A12(T) (Brentwood to Ipswich). The Route Management Strategy for the A14 does not propose any improvement to the A14 or to any of its junctions in the TIA study area, though it does envisage the provision of low noise surfacing where appropriate. The Route Management Strategy for the A12 proposes an investigation into potential improvement options for the Copdock junction, but there is no commitment to place any scheme which might arise from that investigation into the road improvement programme.
Potential impact of the Felixstowe South Reconfiguration on A14 junctions
3.150 The addition of the traffic flows arising from the proposed development would have a materially detrimental effect on the capacity of the Dock Spur junction. Highway works to improve the Dock Spur Roundabout would be required in order to accommodate safely the extra traffic which would be generated by the development. Improvements to the Dock Spur Roundabout to address the road safety and capacity issues have therefore been agreed between the Promoters and the Highways Agency.
3.151 Similarly, the addition of traffic flows from the proposed development (together with the possible in combination addition of the traffic generated by the proposed Bathside Bay Container Terminal) would have a materially detrimental effect on the capacity of the Copdock Interchange. Junction capacity mitigation measures are therefore required at that location also. Again, therefore, highway works to make the necessary improvements to the Copdock Interchange have been agreed between the Promoters and the Highways Agency.
3.152 Both agreed schemes of improvement could be enforced by conditions on any planning permission. Agreed conditions to achieve that end are included in Appendix 1 to the executed Section 106 Agreement in connection with the proposed development (Document CD/HP/131).
3.153 The five year accident record shows 19 personal injury accidents occurring at the Dock Spur Roundabout. Thirteen of these involved drivers who lost control of their vehicles while negotiating the roundabout. Six of these were HGVs, with a number of overturning accidents. Over the same period, there were 37 personal injury accidents at the Copdock Roundabout, a substantial proportion of them involving nose to tail shunts. Both roundabouts therefore have poor accident records. This is significant, because the overall rate of accidents on the A14 (T) between the Port of Felixstowe and the Copdock Interchange is lower than would be expected for a road of this nature carrying the traffic flows which it bears.
3.154 Without the Felixstowe South Reconfiguration, it is estimated that the accident frequency along this stretch would increase from 30 personal injury accidents per year in 2004 to 40.6 accidents per year by 2023 as a result of increased traffic flows. With the proposed Reconfiguration, the accident frequency would increase to 42.9 per year. The improvements to the junctions which would be delivered as part of the scheme, however, would be estimated to reduce the overall personal injury accident figures to 38.9 per year. This would therefore show an overall reduction in such accidents, despite the additional traffic which the proposal would generate.
3.155 Road schemes relating to a trunk road can only be promoted by the Highways Agency on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport. The works necessary to address the traffic impacts of the proposed development would therefore be funded by the Promoters, but carried out by the Highways Agency in accordance with an agreement under Section 278 of the Highways Act 1980.
Potential impact of the Felixstowe South Reconfiguration on A14(T) links between junctions
3.156 It is agreed in Document SCG/12 that the A14(T) links between the Dock Gate No 1 Roundabout and the Seven Hills Interchange (the junction south east of Ipswich between the A14(T), the A12 running north to Lowestoft, and the A1156) would operate within capacity with the Felixstowe South Reconfiguration in place. From the Seven Hills Interchange to the Copdock Interchange, the links would operate over capacity within the fifteen year assessment period for the scheme with or without the Felixstowe development in place.
3.157 To mitigate the impact which the development would have on the link capacity, the Promoters would agree to enter into a Freight Quality Partnership (FQP) and a Freight Travel Management Plan (FTMP) as described in paragraphs 4.16 to 4.21 of Document SCG/12 and as set out in detail in Schedule 4 to Document CD/HP/131, the executed Section 106 Agreement. The FQP would bring together groups with an interest in freight transport along the A14 corridor to seek to identify opportunities for reductions in road based freight demand, particularly at peak hours. The FTMP would govern the Promoters' own operations, managing the spread of HGV demand by instituting a booking system for HGV arrivals at the Port, and encouraging non road based travel modes.
Other road traffic issues
3.158 As regards the impact of Port traffic on local roads for which the County Council is the highway authority, it should be noted that the County Council is a supporter of the scheme rather than an objector to it. The County Council has raised the issue of the stacking of HGVs on local roads when bad weather conditions lead to the closure of the Port. In response to that, agreed condition 38, submitted in Appendix 1 to the Section 106 Agreement, would require arrangements acceptable to the local planning authority to be in place before Phase 2B of the scheme could be operated.
3.159 Clearly, some existing locally based employees at the Port use local roads to reach their work, and the same would apply to additional employees taking jobs in any permitted new development; but employees who live further afield, like strategic HGV traffic, would use the A14(T) to access the site, because this road provides the most logical and convenient route for such traffic flows.
3.160 Because of the shift pattern at the Port (with shifts changing at 7am and 7pm) employee related traffic is in any event generated outside the highway peak hours. This arrangement would not change if the proposals for the Landguard Terminal are approved. As an added benefit, Schedule 3 to the Section 106 Agreement provides for the operation of a Green Travel Plan for employees at the Port, and for this to apply to all Port employees, not just new employees connected with the proposed development. The Travel Plan would seek to reduce the use of cars by staff through the encouragement of car sharing and the use of public transport, walking and cycling. Practical support, such as interest free season ticket loans, the provision of dedicated bus services, well lit and comfortable waiting areas, the provision of lockers, showers and changing rooms would be backed up by information and promotion. For office based staff, home working would be promoted to reduce the need to travel.
3.161 In relation to construction traffic, the overall construction period would last for around three and a half years. As a worst case, up to around 250 to 300 construction HGV movements (125 to 150 vehicles per day) would be generated by the proposed reconfiguration for periods of around three to four months on three separate occasions during the construction process. These vehicles would access Felixstowe via the A12(T) and the A14(T). In addition, in the absence of mitigation, a maximum of 173 car movements would also be generated at the beginning and end of each working day. This number would be reduced to 40 movements through the use of minibuses. A Construction Traffic Management Plan designed to reduce potential impacts of construction traffic would be secured by a planning condition. Like the proposed Green Travel Plan, it is covered in Document SCG/17, agreed between the Promoters, the District Council and the County Council.
3.162 There is demand, in the public interest, for increased container import and export. The location of the Port of Felixstowe, with immediate access to the A14(T), limits the impact which traffic arising from the reconfiguration of Felixstowe South would have on people and on the environment. The proposed development would provide the opportunity to use water for onward movement of containers by way of transhipment, and to use rail transport for a significant proportion of the balance of incoming goods. Thus only about 56% of the total throughput of the container terminal would be transported by road.
Rail transport proposals
3.163 The White Papers, "The Future of Transport" (Document CD/HP/63) and "The Future of Rail" (Document CD/HP/64), both published in July 2004, underline the Government's commitment to sustainable development through such measures as achieving more sustainable distribution of goods and increasing rail freight.
3.164 The rail network already serves the Port of Felixstowe, via the single track Felixstowe Branch Line, which connects to the double track East Suffolk Line at Westerfield Junction, north of Ipswich. The Ipswich - Felixstowe Line links to the Great Eastern Main Line at Ipswich, and allows the Port to serve markets throughout the UK via the North London Line to the West Coast Main Line.
3.165 The maximum practical capacity of the Felixstowe Branch Line is estimated to be 25 freight trains in each direction per day in addition to the hourly passenger service from Ipswich to Felixstowe. To secure this capacity, it would be proposed to double track up to 8km of the route between Trimley and Nacton.
3.166 Capacity is also currently limited by the number of available sidings in the Ipswich Marshalling Yard. Three additional sidings would therefore be created to remove this constraint.
3.167 The ability of the rail network to carry containers is also limited by the loading gauge on the principal routes to inland destinations. W8 gauge allows for containers 2.6 metres high on standard wagons with a deck height of 1 metre; W9 gauge allows for "High Cube" 2.9 metres high containers on "Megafret" wagons with lower deck heights; W10 gauge allows for High Cube containers on standard wagons. The proportion of High Cube containers used by shipping lines is increasing - from 10% in 1995 to 30% in 2003. High Cubes are expected to comprise 50% of containers in use by 2010.
3.168 The gauge clearance of the route from Felixstowe to and across London to the West Coast Main Line is now to W10 standard. The gauge clearance of the route between Ipswich and Peterborough linking to the East Coast Main Line is, however, only W8. Works to increase that gauge clearance to W10 standard have been agreed between the SRA and the Promoters. They are identified in Document SCG/13. They would be carried out by the SRA or their successors, and funded (along with the track dualling and the work at Ipswich sidings) by the Promoters. This would be secured by the Section 106 Agreement and a linked agreement with the relevant Rail Authorities.
3.169 Together, these initiatives would allow an ultimate rail share of 26% of all hinterland traffic generated by the Felixstowe South Reconfiguration to be carried by rail.
3.170 If the reconfiguration were to proceed in conjunction with the proposed Bathside Bay Container Terminal, then, up to around 2017, it would be possible for rail modal shares of 26% and 22.5% respectively to be maintained. Beyond that date, the share for the reconfiguration might reduce to around 23%, but this could take place with no material effect on the situation on the highway network.
3.171 The rail improvements proposed would be beneficial as far as the rail network is concerned. Moreover, through the promotion of rail by the Promoters, the development of the reconfiguration scheme would impact positively on the Government's objectives for rail freight.
3.172 The development plan contains policies which encourage integrated transport solutions and promote transport choice. National policy seeks to promote sustainable distribution and to reduce dependency on road transport. The Promoters' scheme would be in accord with all of these aims.