Transport minister Derek Mackay has launched the Scottish Government’s new rail freight strategy to address the ‘growing challenges facing the industry’.
The strategy defines the Scottish Government’s vision as ‘a safer, greener and more efficient way of transporting products and materials’.
It defines four key levers: innovation, facilitation, promotion and investment, and includes a number of ‘actions to inform its delivery’.
The document also sets out critical success factors:
- a sustainable rail freight industry
- increased opportunities for Scottish exports
- longer, faster, greener freight trains
- a high performing, resilient, strategic freight network for Scotland, fully aligned with cross-border flows
- strong partnerships across the industry; and high value returns on public and private investments
Mr Mackay at Aberdeen Craiginches Freight Terminal
Mr Mackay said: ‘This strategy follows a comprehensive consultation process that sought the views of the rail freight industry, businesses, trade unions and other stakeholders.
'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.'
He called on industry and business across Scotland and the UK to unite behind the strategy and support the rail freight sector, adding: '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.’
The strategy states that is underpinned by the vision and outcomes within Scotland’s National Transport Strategy and shares the same objectives as the devolved administration’s National Freight Strategy.
However, it distinguishes itself from the National Freight Strategy in that it ‘seeks to address the pressing market challenges faced by the rail freight industry due to the decline of the dominant, traditional markets of coal and steel’ and ‘reflects the regulated nature of the industry and the opportunities and challenges of a fixed network with defined rights of use and associated charging mechanisms'.
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) backed the rail freight strategy, stating that it will be good for the freight and logistics industry.
The FTA was consulted by the Scottish Government and contributed to the strategy when it introduced its own document Agenda for More Freight by Rail.
The FTA’s head of policy for Scotland, Chris MacRae, said: 'It is vital that the challenges to rail freight in Scotland are recognised. Volumes have fallen with the demise of coal traffic and loss of steel. The biggest opportunity is intermodal traffic – both deep sea container export goods and domestic Anglo-Scottish traffic, including retailer.'