Deal to be struck to turn Fratton into freight depot

Portsmouth's continental ferry port is on the cusp of signing a 25-year deal to turn part of Fratton train station into a freight depot.

The port, owned by Portsmouth City Council, had been trying for years to get the rail line up and running.

It would allow Portsmouth to ship containers by train across the whole country.

The port ran a handful of freight train journeys from Fratton in early 2009.

But since then it has been unable to get a long-term lease from Network Rail to use the site - despite putting 450,000 of public and European money into the project.

Now Network Rail said it expects the lease to finally be agreed next week.

The whole project has been run by assistant harbourmaster Jerry Clarke, 48.

He said: 'To have it up and running allows the port an alternative to road travel, a green alternative that lots will want to take.

'It's something people will have to move towards as road charging comes in.

'It could be a survival line for the port in the future if we ever lose the bananas (the port's main cargo).'

The lease would cost 10,000 per year for the first eight years, then costs would rise sharply.

But the port could be waiting a while to see any real money being made.

'The problem we have is while the recession persists, we're not going to get any traffic off the roads,' he said.

'All the hauliers are so cut-throat that we can't compete.

'But when it ends things will be different.'

The long-term deal would cost around 10,000 annually for the first eight years, but would then rise steeply.

The freight trips in early 2009 were done on a temporary, short-term lease from Network Rail, which owns the land.

But the 25-year deal would allow the port to move freight on a bigger scale, and guarantee the 450,000 spent on developing the site would not be wasted.

Among the things the port wants to use the freight depot for is to win a deal with Veolia to ship all the region's paper to recycling plants by train.

It also plans to let Pompey executives from nearby Fratton Park use the site as car parking.

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