The big news stories that broke last week will have Suffolk people scratching their heads

Firstly, the Port of Felixstowe announced plans to extend its newest container handling facility to handle the world’s very biggest ships (the monster Triple E vessels operated by Maersk).
The extra 190 metres means that, by 2015, the total berth length for container vessels will be a massive 3,250 metres, served by 37 gantry cranes.
Development is welcome in terms of jobs, unwelcome in terms of increased traffic, development and disruption to a largely rural lifestyle.
At the same time as being home to one of the world’s biggest container ports, Suffolk is one of England’s few counties without a single metre of motorway.
They’re sincerely hoping that the effects of the first will be mitigated by the second.
The second announcement, this one from Network Rail, couldn’t have been more timely.
It was news of the near completion of the intriguingly-named Bacon Chord Loop. (It’s called that, because it’s on the site of the old Harris bacon factory in Ipswich, which closed about 30 years ago).
This Network Rail project creates an extra length of track that means that convoys of containers can, in future, head straight from Felixstowe terminal to the Midlands, instead of taking the none-too-picturesque diversion to Stratford in north London.
It’s set to open in April and for the people of East Anglia it couldn’t come a moment too soon.
(The third big story for the area is that the 12 acre site in Ipswich, with the Bacon Chord at the northern end, is now to be developed as a business park potentially creating hundreds of jobs, thanks to entrepreneurial local business, Peter Colby Commercials. Once the Network Rail contractors leave the site, Peter Colby’s team move in!)
Suffolk’s widely known for its pretty landscapes, pretty coast and – often – little else. Those of us who live and work here are well used to being overlooked in favour of our higher profile neighbours – Essex, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. On a personal level, we don’t mind too much, but businesswise it can be frustrating!
Our traditional agricultural-based industry is – largely – long gone. Our county town, Ipswich, is more known as the home of huge insurance companies than anything these days.
Yet, Felixstowe – the UK’s largest container port – is actually in our backyard. (And the booming offshore energy industry has set up home in the Lowestoft area and there are plans for a new nuclear reactor built at Sizewell in the next decade or so.)
They’re growing businesses that matter to the country as a whole – and they’re happening in right here in the pretty little county that’s sandwiched between Cambridgeshire and the sea.
The people of Suffolk, unsurprisingly, see development as a mixed blessing.
The majority of containers – an estimated 3.4 million TEU’s (20ft equivalent units) each year – head by road over the Orwell Bridge towards the UK’s industrial and commercial heartlands. This magnificent structure is, however, frequently hit by storms and accidents with traffic chaos erupting in Ipswich’s narrow mediaeval streets as a result.
Of course, some containers do take the rail route, but that similarly puts strain on our creaking eastern region rail network.
The Port of Felixstowe is a massive local employer, both directly and indirectly, and needs to compete on a level playing field with the massive investment that is the London Gateway. It’s a huge success story and we’re right behind Felixstowe’s determination not to give ground to its newest competitor.
Let’s hope that these local developments, working in parallel to the benefit of all, establish Suffolk on the business map and strengthen the Port of Felixstowe’s position, yet without destroying all that’s good about this beautiful rural county.
But on both a personal level and local basis we, the people of Suffolk, are hoping to hear rather less on the BBC’s traffic reports of accidents, chaos and diversions around the Orwell Bridge, the Copdock interchange and the Nacton Seven Hills junction!
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Vanessa Penn

About Vanessa Penn

Vanessa Penn was formerly Director of Commercial Agency for Countrywide Commercial, Bradford & Bingley and Douglas Duff part of Erinaceous Plc. Vanessa now runs her own agency Penn Commercial located in Ipswich, Suffolk Penn Commercial boasts a number of local, regional and national clients and has formed an excellent and loyal client base.
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