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(Left to right) Sir John Peace, Midlands Engine; John Williams, Maritime; Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris and David Sleath, SEGRO

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris has officially opened Maritime's new strategic rail freight interchange at SEGRO Logistics Park, East Midlands Gateway.

The MP was joined by representatives from Maritime Transport and SEGRO, and more than 350 guests from across the East Midlands region and the wider transport and logistics industry.

The event follows the introduction of the first dedicated service between East Midlands Gateway and the Port of Felixstowe which is operated by Maritime Intermodal, a subdivision of Maritime Transport.

The 17-acre open-access terminal, capable of handling up to sixteen 775metre-long freight trains daily and providing storage capacity for over 5,000TEU, is the first to connect to the Castle Donington freight line, providing direct access to the UK’s network of rail freight interchanges and all major UK ports.

East Midlands Gateway is Maritime’s fifth rail terminal to date. It features three loaded reach stackers and two empty container handlers to ensure quick turnaround times, and will eventually host a three-storey, 20,000 sq ft headquarters for Maritime Intermodal to house operations staff, state-of-the-art training facilities and parking for a fleet of up to 100 trucks.

Opening ceremony guests included representatives from global shipping lines, rail freight companies, UK Ports, retailers, freight forwarders and trusted suppliers.

Commented Heaton-Harris: "The rail freight sector is vital to the UK, not only supporting economic growth and international transport links, but driving down emissions by removing around seven million lorry journeys a year from Britain’s roads. This new Gateway provides direct access to the UK’s major ports, demonstrating that Britain is open for business and our commitment to boosting jobs and trade while cleaning up our air."

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Added Maritime’s group executive chairman, John Williams: "Opening our new rail terminal at East Midlands Gateway is an extremely proud occasion for Maritime. This great facility, thanks to our vision and the vision of SEGRO, far exceeds the minimum, and we have jointly created a spectacular fit-for-purpose terminal that will further enable us to offer a full end-to-end UK logistics solution to our customers. We have seen promising demand already, and are confident of its success."

SEGRO chief executive David Sleath said: "The new rail freight interchange is a fantastic addition to SEGRO Logistics Park East Midlands Gateway and makes it a true multimodal ‘in-land’ port which facilitates the efficient and sustainable movement of goods around the country.

"We are keen to build on the success of East Midlands Gateway by continuing to grow our footprint in the Midlands. We have planning consent to create almost 15 million sq ft of industrial or logistics space in the region in the coming years which will represent around £1bn of further investment and bring significant long-term benefits for the economy, our customers and local communities."

Midlands Engine chairman John Peace said the facility would also play an essential role in carbon neutrality by allowing the movement of more freight from the congested road network onto the railway.

"The Midlands Engine is working towards a prosperous future," he said, "and it’s essential that we do this on a global scale, that we reach out to our international partners and that we continue to trade and export. However, our continued success must be sustainable, and our growth inclusive. That’s why the work of SEGRO, Maritime Transport, and the Midlands Engine is so important."