Today witnessed the return of rail freight to Portsmouth with the opening of a new rail freight terminal, designed and developed by Intermodality.
Thirty years to the day, the last freight train left the Naval Dockyard in 1977, ending a 130-year old relationship stretching back to the opening of the Chichester to Portsmouth Branch Railway in 1847.
At one point, Portsmouth Dockyard had nearly 25 miles of track, with thousands of tonnes of coal, steel, equipment and stores moved by rail every year. The Dockyard’s rail system was connected to the main line by a spur from Harbour Station (removed following bomb damage in World War II) and from the high-level platform at Portsmouth & Southsea Station.
In 1957 the dockyard was still receiving 8,500 wagonloads of traffic a year (over 30 a day), but by 1967 this had fallen by a third to 6,000 a year, and by the time the last train left in November 1977, the Dockyard had only received 700 wagons since January that year.
Ironically, one of the last loads to leave demonstrated the value of rail transport to the Dockyard, with the despatch of four 30 metre (100 ft) long pontoons for Portland Naval Base, something that would have been difficult to achieve with road transport.
Following almost a decade of challenges, Portsmouth Commercial Port , with IMPACTE funding organised by SEEDA and with support from Network Rail, finally achieved its ambition to see a rail freight interchange created on site.