Thursday, February 10, 2011

Scottish U Turn On Rail Freight Grant

Extra Money Found for Environmental Reasons
Shipping News Feature

UK – After intense lobbying by industry groups including the Freight Transport Association (FTA)and the Rail Freight Group (RFG) the decision to cut the Freight Facilities Grant (FFG), which was designed to assist the development of intermodal transport and have a positive effect on environmental pollution, has been revised.

The Scottish Parliament have decided that an extra £2 million will be provided to support the grant in the revised budget for the following financial year and in a meeting with MSP Charlie Gordon FTA representatives were told that the issue may be looked at again. Chris MacRae, FTA’s Head of Policy for Scotland, said:

“Following concerted industry effort, we have managed to convince government that doing away with the freight facilities grant would have been a retrograde step for Scotland’s businesses and for meeting its tough environmental carbon reduction targets.

“It is excellent news that the pressure we have exerted on policy makers, and potential policy makers, has borne fruit and we are delighted that the FFG, which promote modal shift helping to reduce congestion on Scotland’s roads, has been given a reprieve at the eleventh hour. Modal shift is a hugely important issue given the Scottish Government’s ambitious climate change targets.”

RFG Scottish Representative, David Spaven, commented:

“This is a great decision, and is tribute to the cross-party support for retaining an unsung but very successful scheme. I would like to give thanks to the Scottish Government and to all others involved, including the Parliament’s Transport, Infrastructure & Climate Change Committee, and to Cathy Jamieson MSP for leading the helpful debate on FFG in Parliament on 13 January.

“Keeping Freight Facilities Grants will allow new rail schemes to take tens of thousands of heavy trucks off Scottish roads every year. It will mean not only relief for communities the length and breadth of Scotland but also support for economic development through providing a safe, sustainable and resilient alternative to road haulage.”

Colin Howden, Director of Transform Scotland said:

"We're pleased to see that the Government has seen sense and reinstated this critical rail freight fund. Scrapping the FFG would have gone against the Scottish Government's aim of shifting freight from road to rail and sea.

"The Government also has strenuous targets to meet on climate change. Rail freight is three times more energy-efficient than road haulage, and there are clear carbon benefits from ongoing investment in rail freight across Scotland."

Certainly the original decision, which we described in a previous article as putting the SNP under ‘an almost unprecedented wave of pressure’, appeared more than a little ambiguous, given the Scottish Parliament’s avowed intent to reduce emissions by transferring large quantities of freight currently borne by trucks, onto the tracks.