Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Intermodal Row Escalates As Freight, Political And Manufacturing Interests Pressure Government

Scots Won't Let 7 Million Pound Grant Go Without a Fight
Shipping News Feature

UK – The SNP find itself under an almost unprecedented wave of pressure after declaring plans to abandon the Freight Facilities Grant (FFG), designed to assist the modal shift from trucks to rail and sea freight. The Grant was originally started in 1974 and in the past twelve years had awarded £68.9 million including £10.9 million from the Department for Transport, to fund thirty seven projects.

Briefed by the Rail Freight Group (RFG) Labour MSP Cathy Jamieson raised the matter last week during a debate in the Scottish Parliament and said those funds had thus far reduced the number of truck miles by more than 33.5 million by diverting freight onto more acceptable modes of transport. Now Ms Jamieson has been backed by the Green Party who say that the matter is as much about safety and congestion as it is about environmental considerations.

With rail unions also objecting to the cuts, others from the production sector are also incensed, including several major distillers and now the company which produces Highland Spring, Britain’s largest supplier of bottled water, has apparently written to the Transport Committee stating that without continuing assistance from the Grant the company cannot press ahead with its plans to switch deliveries to rail freight.

Transport Scotland have responded by stating that budget cuts from Westminster have meant they cannot continue to fund rail development and they proposed to reduce support from £10.3 million in 2010-11 to £2.9 million the following year. RFG Chairman Tony Berkeley previously wrote letters of support for Ms Jamieson’s motion and new RFG Scottish Representative David Spaven said:

“The retention of the successful FFG scheme is absolutely critical to shifting more freight from road to rail in Scotland. We strongly urge the Scottish Government to ensure that the country does not lose out on the widespread economic and environmental benefits which FFG’s deliver.”

Colin Howden, Director of Transform Scotland, an organisation dedicated to more sustainable transport modes, commented:

“Scrapping FFG goes against the Scottish Government's aim of shifting freight from road to rail and sea. The Government has strenuous targets to meet on climate change, and the decision to scrap FFG puts its commitment to these in doubt. Rail freight is three times more energy-efficient than road haulage, and there are clear carbon benefits from getting heavy freight off the roads."

The Freight Facilities Grant (FFG) scheme is currently closed to applications for projects which will incur expenditure after 31 March 2011. Applications can still be made for FFG where expenditure will be fully incurred before 1 April 2011. Mode Shift Revenue Support (MSRS)/Waterborne Freight Grant (WFG) schemes continue to operate. Applications for MSRS and WFG funding for the period 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2012 should be made by 31 January 2011 HERE.