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RFG and Transform call for a National Low-Carbon Freight Network

Published 05 May 2020 by Transform Scotland

We have today, alongside Rail Freight Group (RFG), published our joint proposal for a ‘National Low-Carbon Freight Network’ in response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the new National Planning Framework (NPF4).

Joe O’Donnell, Rail Freight Group’s Head of Policy, said:

“Granting our proposed National Low-Carbon Freight Network national development status is a real opportunity for the Scottish Government to demonstrate its commitment to tackling the climate emergency. This would build on existing measures in Scotland to increase rail freight such as the rail freight target and the rail freight facilities grant.

“Switching from road to rail can see reductions of up to 76% in carbon emissions. We urge the Scottish Government to put the environmental commitments it has made into practice and ensure that its planning
policy actively supports rail freight. Support for a National Low-Carbon Freight Network will be a clear sign that we cannot return to business as usual and that future investment should help Scotland reach net zero carbon emissions.”

The transfer of freight from road to rail can offer a ‘quick win’ by cutting CO2 emissions. There are also significant benefits to be gained from this proposal for people, place, and inclusive growth. In our response, we highlight three factors the development of a National Low-Carbon Freight Network will depend on:

  1. Electrification. Early electrification of the routes from Central Scotland to Aberdeen and Inverness – speeding up transits, improving route capacity and further cutting carbon emissions compared to road haulage. To support electrification there must also be investment in ensuring that the electricity supply will be able to meet the demand placed on it.
  2. Route capacity. Enhancement of route and train capacity and capability (including loading gauge) to secure cost-effective rail freight operations connecting Central Scotland with key ports and terminals across the country.
  3. Terminals. Realising the above potential depends in part on the creation of new rail freight terminals to serve currently neglected regions and undersupplied areas. Amongst the priorities should be:
    • Speyside – re-opened terminals at Keith and/or Elgin are needed to allow rail freight to help cut down on the 50,000 long-distance whisky lorry trips on the A9 annually.
    • Direct rail access to key whisky industry sites, such as Cameron Bridge in Fife (the largest grain distillery in Europe) and Cambus / Blackgrange near Alloa (the largest bonded warehouse site in Europe).

Colin Howden, director of Transform Scotland, said:

“We’re delighted to have teamed up with the Rail Freight Group to put forward this important proposal. Rail freight is often forgotten about in discussions over transport policy, yet it is one of the areas where there is potential for significant, and early, cuts in climate emissions.

“We will be pressing to ensure that rail freight takes high priority not only in the new National Planning Framework, but also in the Strategic Transport Projects Review, the updated Climate Change Plan, and the Scottish Government’s planned Coronavirus ‘Economic Recovery Plan’.”