Monday, November 15, 2010

FTA Backs Scottish Rail Freight Strategy

Bid to Increase Country's Exports Welcomed - with Reservations
Shipping News Feature

SCOTLAND – This week the Freight Transport Association (FTA) came out in support of Network Rail’s Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) for Scotland’s railways which it believes will go some way to boosting the country’s performance as a net exporter of goods allowing for more freight-friendly rail movements, connecting Scotland with England and the rest of Europe. As is usual however the FTA are looking for a government commitment to invest in the recommendations to ensure success.

The FTA believe it is important that recommendations to increase the gauge along the East Coast Main Line (ECML), which connects London to Edinburgh via York and Newcastle, are not ignored which it feels will improve rail freight capacity, bringing such benefits as a reduction in carbon emissions, less road congestion and more reliable and cost-efficient freight movements.

The FTA feel further works to extend the network to accommodate the increasingly common 9’ 6” containers are essential. Chris MacRae, FTA’s Head of Policy for Scotland said:

“The ECML could become an extremely useful freight route with a better gauge clearance and would help to alleviate any of the stress currently felt along the WCML, which takes the majority of our freight, and effectively give Scotland’s economy a vital shot in the arm.

“However, this investment mustn’t stop at the border. For a joined-up rail freight network to yield maximum benefits to business and the environment, W10 gauge clearance must apply to Scotland and England and this will require a political will that transcends borderlines.”

There is a conscious drive to promote Scottish products abroad, with this week the Chinese guaranteeing Scotch whisky’s status as a unique product (only home produced spirit may be sold as ‘Scotch’) and more container feeder services linking the country to the rest of the UK and into Europe. Mr MacRae commented:

“Scotland’s ambition to grow is inextricably linked to its ability to export goods, and with predictions for annual growth in non-bulk traffic taken at 11 per cent, not to mention the likely boom in Scotch Whisky demand from China thanks to new geographical indication restrictions, we can’t afford to ignore NR’s recommendations.”