My response to SizewellC Consultation 5: road to rail

In response to their last – recent -consultation in the summer, Sizewell produced  some amendments and variations to their plans. As far as Woodbridge was concerned the most important part was the proposal to take  some works traffic off the roads and send it by rail.  Marine delivery was also mentioned.

I responded on your behalf as follows:

In my responses to past consultations tp Sizewell C I have emphasised  – in addition to the damage that will be done to the heritage countryside of East Suffolk by the building of this power station – the damage that is inevitable by the diminishing sustainability of EDF’s freight proposals.

In the last proposal the delivery of this project was intended to be almost wholly road dependent. It seemed that EDF had discounted the only solution that would cause least environmental impact to the county, in the name of causing less environmental impact. However National Planning policy states that waterborne or rail transport should be preferred to road transport at all stages.

Marine delivery: I therefore welcome the proposal for an additional Beach Landing Facility at Sizewell Beach to bring construction materials in by sea. I am interested to see this is now seen as possible when in the past, marine delivery was speedily discounted with the excuse of damage to marine environment.

However this new plan is not well fleshed out.

It also begs the question, why cannot all or most materials be delivered to the site by this means? It would, for example, be helpful it we knew from where EDF is sourcing the construction materials.

If Sizewell has to be built, it could only be done by eliminating the impact of the scheme on Suffolk’s unique and ancient natural environment: minimising, mitigating, or compensating for its destruction is not enough.

The impact on the population has also to be considered along with the countryside.

Rail delivery: The belated mitigation of a road-led strategy by proposals that provide more night trains may help the environment but it will be at the expense of the population who live along the East Suffolk railway line, the residents I represent being among them.

Currently passenger trains operate on the East Suffolk Line between Saxmundham and Ipswich between 0620 and 2250. The current rail proposal is for a night train every hour for the next ten years. We are told that these are likely to be Class 66 locomotives with up to 20 wagons – that is, nearly 350m long, and capable of carrying up to 1,250 tonnes of construction materials. The noise and vibration made by these will be considerable, and it will be a 24 hour issue, as there are hourly passenger services during the day.

Depending on where EDF is sourcing the construction materials, this will impact most heavily on dwellers alongside the track from Ipswich to Saxmundham, and  the residents of Woodbridge most particularly. Indeed, as the rail-track in Woodbridge runs alongside the estuary and the town itself is built on land rising from the estuary to the west, the noise of the trains can be heard all over Woodbridge.

The trains being so long and there being several crossings close to Woodbridge Station (both North and South): this will also impact on accessibility by foot and vehicle

My particular concerns are:

  • the impact on passenger services generally: the proposed augmentation of services  provides no ‘recovery time’ for any train breakdowns, points failure or timetabling delays or line obstructions such as animal encroachment, fallen trees or human tragedy.
  • the impact of both noise and vibration from passing trains on residents’ wellbeing and sleep
  • the length of south-bound trains at Woodbridge station preventing emergency services access to residential properties and house boats east of the railway line; north-bound trains preventing emergency services access to businesses East of the line such as the Woodbridge boatyard and the Tea Hut, and to riverside organisations such as Woodbridge Boat club and Woodbridge Cruising Club.
  • noise and air pollution caused by trains idling at the station

The proposals lack any detail or assessments of the impact on residents or businesses affected – by access, noise, or vibration. and as I have just said, this extends beyond those living close to the track to those within earshot. In Woodbridge alone this is the best part of 10,000 people. The extend of the impact needs to be assessed now and measures must be proposed and costed well in advance, rather than when (if) rail becomes an agreed solution.

Road freight transport This brings us back to the HGVs againEDF claim by their belated move from an almost wholly road-led strategy  it would be possible to reduce the numbers of HGVs on the busiest days from 1,000 to 700, and on a typical day, from 650 to 500 during the building phase.   Again – it would help if we knew from where EDF is sourcing the construction materials.

And, of course, it would seem HGVs are the default should there be any issue with rail or shipping. For example, if the rail option were progressed ( despite all the issues outlined above)  it could not come into effect immediately and would  not have any impact on reducing traffic during the first two years.

During these years in addition to all other Sizewell C traffic, 650 HGVsd per day would use the A12 and B1122. (And of course, this is before we factor in any Brexit increase or that caused by building the Friston substation).

Sizewell C would therefore still generate a huge number of extra vehicle journeys each day, massively increasing traffic on the A12, the Orwell Bridge and surrounding roads and making rat runs more likely.

As far as Woodbridge is concerned, the northbound A12 becomes an unrestricted single lane carriageway after the Seckford Hall turnoff until just short of the A12/B1069 roundabout. Between that point and just north of the entry of Manor Road onto the A12 the dual carriageway is restricted to 40mph and includes a signal-controlled pedestrian crossing. After this, speed is restricted to 50mph. Even with current traffic levels, queues develop in both directions  at peak periods, which leads to ratrunning through Woodbridge town.

EDF assures us that HGV drivers will be sanctioned for using routes off the A12, however they cannot  make such provision for unintended consequences: that is, other traffic wishing to escape the queues or intimidated by the HGVS who may turn off the A12 and seek the safety of backroads. Basically, any increase in traffic levels on the A12 northbound and southbound will lead to more frequent, and longer, queues and thus to more regular choice by drivers to divert through Woodbridge. This can only add to Woodbridge’s air quality issues ( Lime Kiln Quay Road/Thoroughfare traffic light-controlled junction).

Such additional through traffic will adversely impact the town’s economy by making it less attractive a shopping centre and tourist centre. It could be mitigated if funding were provided for the provision of the Suffolk County Council approved 20mph zone through Woodbridge along the B1438 and other cross-town roads to reduce the attractiveness of the B1438 for through traffic.

Conclusion The residential outskirts of Woodbridge are built beside, and locally traversed by, the A12, beside which is sited the large Farlingaye High School (2000 plus students) with a catchment area of about 400 sq miles. The playing and recreation field abuts the A12 Air quality is a specific issue in young peoples’ health.  Increased traffic would worsen the situation.

Residential properties lie both sides of the A12 between the A12/B1069 roundabout and the A12 junction with Manor Road to the north.

The eastern part of Woodbridge is defined by the B1438 – which is where traffic escapes queues – which runs from a roundabout junction with the A12 southwest of Woodbridge (with a significant amount of sheltered and old persons housing build on both sides. Air quality is also a specific issue with older people’s health. Increased traffic would worsen the situation.) It continues via the commercial centre of Woodbridge, continuing (as ‘the Old Yarmouth Road”) through Melton, Ufford and Wickham Market before returning to the A12 just north of the proposed Southern Park and Ride, north of Wickham Market.

The East Suffolk railway line traverses the eastern part of the town and its centre. Both the B1438 and railway pass through the residential and conservation area of Woodbridge over extended lengths. The railway forms the boundary to the Deben Estuary AONB

In short, Woodbridge, squeezed as it is between the A12 at the top of the town and the railway at the bottom and with the B1438 running through  is between a rock and two hard places when any form of delivery, excepting marine delivery is  proposed for the construction and running of Sizewell C.

Both road and rail use impacts heavily on the town – the only option that will not is a marine one.

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