Pressure mounts on Scottish Government ‘to support rail freight’

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The Scottish Parliament has been ‘warned that Scottish Government climate change targets are threatened by Spending Review plans, which mean there is no obvious or adequately funded grant mechanism for achieving freight modal shift from road to rail’.

The Rail Freight Group (RFG) has written to the Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change & Environment Committee (RACCE) to outline the potential impact of downgrading capital grant assistance for shifting freight from road to rail and to remind the Committee that rail freight has already been identified as an important element of the Scottish Government’s plan to meet emissions reduction targets between 2010 and 2022.

David Spaven, RFG’s Scottish Representative, wrote in the submission:

“The outcome of the Spending Review places the long-standing Freight Facilities Grant scheme in doubt, and provides no clarity on how the Scottish Government is going to deliver capital grant assistance to achieve its freight modal shift targets.”

He went on to write: “In the Scottish Government’s draft budget for 2012-13, there is no identified budget for the Freight Facilities Grants scheme, which over the last 36 years has provided capital grants to encourage freight modal shift from road to rail (and more recently, sea) transport.

“The Support for the Freight Industry 2012-13 budget of £1.1m will be sufficient only to allow continued revenue grant funding of the rail and water freight flows currently supported by Waterborne Freight Grant and Mode Shift Revenue Support.”

While the Scottish Government has said it supports freight modal shift, it has only budgeted in 2012-13 for a £6.5m ‘Scottish Futures Fund’ to be spread across:

  • Funding Warm Homes
  • Developing the low carbon vehicle agenda, including progress to deliver vehicle charging infrastructure
  • Promoting active travel choices, through support for cycling and walking initiatives, and
  • Supporting modal shift through capital grants for rail and sea freight projects.

The submission concludes that:

“Rail freight potentially has an important role to play in meeting climate change targets, but if manufacturers, processors, logistics companies and road hauliers who are interested in the opportunities for shifting freight from road to rail are to be persuaded to pursue this interest, they urgently need much greater clarity.”

RFG has recommended that a capital budget of at least £5m in 2012-13 should be devoted to freight modal shift, then building up quickly to achieve the £15m annual average required by the Scottish Government’s March 2011 report on proposals and policies for a low-carbon Scotland.

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