Annual Scottish Conference meeting report

The annual RFG Scottish Conference, held in March in North Berwick, examined rail freight developments in Scotland, including challenges and opportunities. 

Our Scotland representative, David Spaven, gave an update on RFG’s activities in Scotland and emphasised the importance of land as a resource for new terminals.  He  explained how the Land Strategy sub-group has reviewed about 150 sites and identified those that have potential for rail freight development in the future. He said there is huge potential for development with commodities such as bottled water and whiskey and that additional services, such between Mossend and Teesport, are very encouraging.

Bill Reeves, Commercial Director, Transport Scotland, said: “Everyone seems to be in favour of rail freight, like we are all in favour of world peace. The point is what are we going to do about it?”  He outlined the actions that Scottish Government is now taking on rail freight, including setting a growth target for the Network Rail route, and making direct investment for rail freight on the Scottish network. He says he has been delighted by the response of Network Rail colleagues in the last few years in helping facilitate growth, for instance, in the timber market.

Chris Swan, Head of Rail at Tarmac, said that construction traffic was growing on the railways and it is important that we show the positive stories. “But we need sites for terminals and network access capacity at realistic costs to continue this growth.”

Andrew Malcolm of Malcolm Logistics explained how shared user terminals for intermodal traffic helped new rail customers, by sharing risk and offering room for growth. John McGuigan outlined the potential for rail freight growth at Aberdeen Harbour, while Geoff Lippitt of PD Ports highlighted how the growth in rail container traffic between Scotland and Teesport in the last five years has been driven by growth the shortsea market, and a greater understanding of the need for effective rail links.

Andy Saunders, Delivery Director, FNPO, Network Rail, admitted that while Network Rail generally understood the freight business, “in some places we probably don’t” and called on all parts of the rail freight industry to work with Network Rail. He also said road and rail need to work more closely together to reap the benefits and develop opportunities.”

Our thanks to Tarmac for supporting the conference and hosting a visit to the nearby Dunbar Cement Plant, which was enjoyed by all those able to participate.