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Scottish freight study underway

Research into the need for, and potential contribution to Scotland's economic competitiveness of, improved freight facilities at various locations throughout Scotland, is about to get underway across the country.

Its aim is to ensure that a strategic approach is taken to the development of Scotland's key freight facilities to improve economic competitiveness and to identify opportunities which could contribute to other objectives such as promoting modal shift to more sustainable means of transporting freight, including rail and sea.

The detailed study by Scott Wilson Scotland Ltd, has been commissioned by Scottish Enterprise, the Scottish Government and Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) and will contribute to delivering the aims identified in Scotland's Freight Action Plan, published in December 2006.

It will compile a database of existing key freight locations within Scotland, analyse and quantify current and future demand for freight transport over the next 20 years, and identify and develop options for improving freight transport across key locations in the country. It is anticipated that these options will include a range of 'multi-modal' freight facilities which provide improved connectivity for airports, ports, rail and road links.

The study is anticipated to last 12 months and will be overseen by a Steering Group consisting of Government agencies, freight industry representatives and wider stakeholders. In this regard, the research will involve widespread consultation with freight operators and users at all levels (including customers).

Over the next few months various forms of data will be collected including origin/destination interviews, telephone interviews with operators and users, and in-depth interviews with other key stakeholders. This work will be undertaken by Sky High Market Research, a specialist transport research agency working on behalf of Scott Wilson Scotland Ltd. The consultants are particularly interested in hearing from any organisations, freight bodies, companies and businesses, and other representatives or users of freight distribution who would be interested in speaking to them about their experiences. Any person or organisation wishing to contribute to this important study should contact Dr Marwan AL-Azzawi, the consultant's Project Manager, by e-mail at marwan.al-azzawi@scottwilson.com.

Mary McLaughlin, Senior Director of Place, Infrastructure and Policy at Scottish Enterprise said: “Our economy depends on good quality freight and cargo networks to make the goods and products we often take for granted available to us whenever we want them. This research will allow us to take stock of the current situation, identify potential strengths and weaknesses and outline our needs for the next 20 years.”

She added: “It is strategically important to Scotland's economic ambitions and all freight operators using Scotland's transport network, as well as other users such as businesses and customers, are encouraged to provide Scott Wilson Scotland Ltd with as much support as they can. Even a little assistance will help us plan for a better freight network which minimises shipping costs and improves the overall economy.”

According to Highlands and Islands Enterprise's Senior Transport Policy Manager, Donald MacNeill, the study will be important in shaping future decision-making. He said: “We know that goods such as whisky and agricultural products leave the Highlands bound for the rest of Scotland and beyond, and we know that there are equally significant flows of goods into the area to service our growing population and industrial base. However we don't know enough about exactly how this freight gets from A to B; which routes and modes are used. With the data provided by this study we'll be able to answer those questions and look for new opportunities to make these goods movements more efficient, more sustainable and more competitive.”

Gavin Scott, Head of Policy-Scotland, Freight Transport Association, said: “The importance of this study to the future of the freight industry in Scotland cannot be overstated. One of the main barriers to its growth is a lack of robust statistical information which can be used to inform future decisions on transport infrastructure which has historically largely been dictated by the concerns of non-freight traffic. Scotland's transport system has to be able to support both and I am sure this study will go along way to redressing that balance. ”

1) Scottish Enterprise is the main economic development agency for Scotland covering 93 per cent of the population from Grampian to the Borders. Working in partnership with the private and public sectors the Network aims to build more and better businesses, to develop the skills and knowledge of Scotland's people, and to encourage innovation to make Scotland's businesses internationally competitive. Further details are available at www.scottish-enterprise.com.

2) The task of the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) network is to unlock the potential for the Highlands & Islands region and help it to create a strong, diverse and sustainable economy. HIE's activities include: delivery of business support services, provision of training and learning programmes, assistance for community and cultural projects and measures for environmental renewal. Further details are available at www.hie.co.uk.

3) Scott Wilson Group plc, with over 5500 members of staff in 80 offices globally, provides sustainable, integrated solutions to meet the planning, engineering, management and environmental needs of clients across the transportation, property, environment and natural resources market sectors. Scott Wilson is currently involved in numerous high profile schemes across Scotland. Further details are available at www.scottwilson.com.

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