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22.03.16

New Scottish Rail Freight Strategy promises more support and investment in CP6

The Scottish freight industry will receive special support in CP6 following measures laid out in the new Rail Freight Strategy.

The strategy, published today, says that the freight industry will provide advice to the Scottish government on the establishment of a ring-fenced rail freight innovation fund for CP6.

Additionally, the Scottish government’s High Level Output Specification for CP6 will include a specific output for cross-border options for freight. Suggestions for this policy will be reported to the Scotland Freight Joint Board by January 2017.

The strategy says that the benefits of rail freight for Scotland include increased growth and investment and reduced congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.

Derek Mackay MSP, Scotland’s transport minister, who launched the strategy at an event at Aberdeen Craiginches Freight Terminal, said: “What became clear during this process is that there are growing challenges facing the industry, however it also revealed a definite desire to tackle them and a need to work together in order to put rail freight back onto a sustainable footing.

“By offering a range of concrete actions that will lead to increased innovation and collaboration across the industry, targeted investment in Scotland’s strategic freight network, and better promotion of the benefits of rail freight both to business and society, we can create the conditions that will allow the sector to prosper and grow.

“I am confident that this strategy will lay the necessary groundwork for creating a sustainable, high quality, highly efficient rail freight industry that Scotland needs, wants and deserves.”

Mackay recently told the Rail Freight Group Conference that an increased role for rail freight was vital for sustainable connectivity in Scotland.

Decline of coal and steel means freight industry faces challenges

The Scottish rail freight strategy specifically seeks to address the market challenges posed by the decline of coal and steel, and by having a fixed network with defined rights of use and associated charging mechanisms.

The report says that key feedback from the freight industry included that future rail freight is likely to be based around a series of small markets instead of the dominant coal and steel markets, that rail freight should keep pace with road freight and work with partners in other sectors, and that the Scottish and UK governments must work together to align their strategies on rail freight.

The Scottish and UK governments promised recently that work on HS2, which could allow travel from London to Scotland in less than four hours, will begin next year.

The report warns that at the moment, the rail freight industry in Scotland is hindered by excess regulation, which discourages potential customers, and a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to solving problems.

The Office of Rail and Road will also provide advice to the Scottish government on the regulatory framework for freight as part of the forthcoming periodic review of Network Rail.

The strategy also calls for devolution of Network Rail functions such as infrastructure projects, timetabling, planning and capacity utilisation. It says that recent events such as the flood damage to Lamington viaduct show that more resilience and focus on the needs of freight customers is required in responding to disasters.

David Spaven, the Rail Freight Group’s Scottish representative, said: “We welcome the Scottish government’s strong support for the development of rail freight in Scotland. The industry is ready to rise to the challenge, working innovatively with government – at all levels – and with our customers, both existing and potential. The more freight we can move by rail, the greater the economic and environmental benefit for Scotland.”

 

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