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.
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.
The new freight line will initially be used to transport excavated material from the construction of Crossrail’s tunnels in London by rail rather than by road.
Exactly one year after his first visit to the then empty brownfield site, the MP viewed the 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.
MP 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.”
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.
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 per cent 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.”
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.