Thames Gateway Minister, Bob Neill, has opened a new £13.5m freight link from the North Kent Line to the former Lafarge Cement Works at Northfleet.
The new freight line will initially be used to transport excavated material from the construction of Crossrail’s tunnels from London by rail rather than by road.
Along with invited guests, Neill travelled in a special passenger train from London Victoria into Lafarge’s Northfleet site via the reinstated rail link.
The length of the new freight line is around 2.25km with 4.75km of new track provided.
At Northfleet the excavated material will be transferred to ship for the final part of its journey along the Thames to a new RSPB nature reserve at Wallasea Island in Essex.
He said: “This project is now going to provide support for the building of Crossrail, proving that the Thames Gateway is well and truly open for business.”
David Simms, land and planning director for Lafarge Cement said: “Crossrail’s involvement in Northfleet has been a major catalyst in enabling the construction of this new freight line which will play a leading role in transporting excavated material from the new tunnels.
“The new rail link forms the second stage of Lafarge’s regeneration of the 104-acre site where a new residential and business community will be created, enhancing Northfleet’s connections to the River Thames.
“In the medium term we hope to use the rail link to serve our existing cement terminal. When Crossrail tunnelling completes, we intend to construct a new Aggregates Terminal which could export up to 1.2m tonnes by rail per year when it is fully operational.”
At the peak of tunnelling up to five freight trains a day will be operated by GB Railfreight from Westbourne Park in west London carrying a total of 7,000 tonnes of earth. Over 10,000 tonnes of excavated material has already been transported from London to Kent.