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TEESPORT, UK: January 04, 2019. With just over 80 days to Brexit, UK port operator PD Ports says a £3 billion government plan to upgrade the 76-mile rail route between Leeds and Manchester without provision for freight is “both unwelcome and deeply troubling” for the North of England economy.

teesport3According to reports, if UK Transport secretary Chris Grayling approves the Trans-Pennine plan, tunnels will not be enlarged to accommodate container trains and there won’t be enough track to allow them to overtake slower services.

Last month Grayling caused more controversy when he agreed a £13.8 million deal with UK start-up Seaborne Freight to operate post-Brexit ferry services between the Channel ports of Ramsgate and Ostend.

On closer investigation the company admits to no experience in owning or operating freight ferries. Asked to explain his decision Grayling told the BBC: “We haven’t plucked this out of thin air.”

PD Ports says a failure to invest in additional rail freight capacity on the Trans-Pennine route would leave an over-reliance on the heavily congested M62 motorway at a time when the lack of UK licensed truck drivers is having a negative impact on UK supply chains and constraining the growth and development of British ports.

The company says its Teesport rail terminal, built at a cost of £3 million in 2014, continues to see a truck-to-rail modal shift with volumes surpassing 40,000 moves per annum.

“There is a significant demand from our customers to be able to move freight east to west through this Northern corridor allowing shorter distances to be covered by rail,” said the company in a statement. “This proposed decision to remove an alternative option of rail transport for freight could have a devastating effect on freight distribution, particularly once Brexit has reached its conclusion in March 2019.”

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