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A multi-million pound rail project reconnecting Northfleet with its industrial heritage will bring with it a boost to local jobs in years to come.

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The new 2.25km rail line linking the old Lafarge cement works with the main railway line was officially unveiled on Thursday (21) by Thames Gateway minister Bob Neill.

The freightliner will be used to take excavated material from tunnelling work for the Crossrail project in London to Northfleet Works where it will be then shipped across the river to create a wildlife reserve at Wallasea Island in Essex.

Northfleet’s rail history dates back to the 1840s when the cement works were established.

Twenty years ago rail use ceased and then in 2008 the cement works, the largest in the UK, were closed after 200 years.

The restoration of the line, which cost £13.5 million, is the next stage in keeping the site in use.

On the opening day, MP Bob Neill said: “Infrastructure such as this is essential in allowing business to move goods and will help propel growth in the area.

“I saw this site one year ago and the progress has been astonishing. Today I’ve been along the line and seen what it will do for the local economy.”

The use of the freight line is a temporary stopgap before phase two – the regeneration of the 104-acre site starting in 2018.

The new riverside development will include offices, industrial units, warehouses and up to 500 homes as well as a community centre, parks, restaurants and shops.

To maintain the area’s industrial importance an import terminal for construction materials will also be built that will use the new rail link to redistribute materials.

Around 300 people worked at the cement site when it was in operation but only about 30 people are employed on site today.

When the redevelopment has been finished Lafarge Cement UK, the company behind the project, estimates 1500 new jobs will be created.

Cllr Mike Snelling said: “It’s a great project. One of the huge benefits is the homes and jobs in the longer term. I think the community should welcome it.”

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