Network Rail’s Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) for Scotland’s railways will go some way to boosting the country’s performance as a net exporter of goods allowing for more freight-friendly rail movements, connecting Scotland with England and the rest of Europe, says the Freight Transport Association (FTA). However, the leading trade body warns that government must commit to investing in these recommendations or else risk damaging Scotland’s prospects for economic growth.
Chris MacRae, FTA’s Head of Policy for Scotland, says:
"Scotland’s ambition to grow is inextricably linked to its ability to export goods, and with predictions for annual growth in non-bulk traffic taken at 11 per cent, not to mention the likely boom in Scotch Whisky demand from China thanks to new geographical indication restrictions, we can’t afford to ignore NR’s recommendations."
It is therefore important that recommendations to increase the gauge along the East Coast Main Line (ECML), which connects London to Edinburgh via York and Newcastle, are not ignored.
This will improve rail freight capacity, bringing such benefits as a reduction in carbon emissions, less road congestion and more reliable and cost-efficient freight movements.
Freight connections to the central belt could also benefit further if proposals in the "second-generation" RUS to introduce electrification to the Whifflet Line come to pass as this could help gauge clearance for the 9’6" containers that are becoming increasingly common.
"The ECML could become an extremely useful freight route with a better gauge clearance and would help to alleviate any of the stress currently felt along the WCML, which takes the majority of our freight, and effectively give Scotland’s economy a vital shot in the arm.
"However, this investment mustn’t stop at the border. For a joined-up rail freight network to yield maximum benefits to business and the environment, W10 gauge clearance must apply to Scotland and England and this will require a political will that transcends borderlines."