Network Rail and Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen have signed off a £1m investment to fund a study which will look at ways to improve the region’s rail freight network.
The cash will help to resolve issues between Eaglescliffe to Northallerton branch of the East Coast Main Line, where low bridges and tunnels currently restrict the size of cargo containers that can be used.
The line carries containers travelling between Felixstowe and Teesport on a daily basis, with the largest containers taking a time consuming and costly detour via Darlington.
If services are to expand to meet expected demand from the port, improvements between Eaglescliffe and Northallerton will be needed.
Network Rail is contributing £750,000 to the project, through their Strategic Freight Network which is funded by the Department for Transport, with a further £250,000 from the Tees Valley Combined Authority.
It will be used to find a workable solution to increasing the container sizes on the line.
Mayor Houchen said: “This investment isn’t eye catching or sexy, but it’s necessary to ensure is Teesport able to keep growing for decades to come.
“As we leave the EU and become an outward, globally trading nation once more, we need to throw our weight behind Teesport by ensuring our rail freight infrastructure is fit for purpose.
“We’ve already committed tens of millions to improve passenger services – with even more investment to come – but this investment with Network Rail will ensure our port is able to take advantage of the opportunities ahead.”
Geoff Lippitt, PD Ports’ business development director, said: “As we continue to increase the number of containers that travel to between key locations in UK and Teesport in addition to our well established daily service to Scotland, these rail links are vital to future economic growth.
“Teesport now handles over 500,000 containers a year and is one the major hubs in the North UK.
“We are delighted work has begun to find an answer to the problems on the route, which will help futureproof the facility, boost productivity and help the whole of the Tees Valley’s economy.”
Aidan Talbott, principal programme sponsor at Network Rail, said: “We recognise the importance of this project to the local region and we are delighted to be working on this study which will look at ways we can improve freight routes between Eaglescliffe and Northallerton.
“This study is at an early stage and we look forward to working with the Tees Valley Combined Authority on this important project.”