David Spaven: Why we must protect former rail routes

David Spaven, Rail Freight Group’s Scottish Representative has written an article for the Scotsman on why Scotland’s former rail routes should be protected:

Rail’s great strength is its ability to move large quantities of freight safely, swiftly and sustainably: the end product of low-friction, steel-wheel-on-steel-rail technology, operating over a segregated route network. But that segregation inevitably means that rail is less ubiquitous than its road haulage competitor, with public roads serving virtually every site across Scotland which generates freight traffic.

In contrast, at present, only a handful of mining / manufacturing / processing sites in Scotland are directly rail-connected – good examples being open-cast coal mines, Hunterston port, the cement works at Dunbar, the Dalzell steel plant, the oil refinery at Grangemouth and the Fort William aluminium smelter. But the coal industry – which traditionally supplied the key freight traffic on the railways – is in substantial decline, and the rail industry urgently needs to find new business.

In practice, much of the traffic potential to help fill the gap left by coal will lie in the domestic intermodal sector, where containers are trunked by rail over the long haul, but typically need collection and delivery by road.

However, eliminating a lorry leg at the start or end of the rail transit can help to transform rail economics and win more traffic back from long-distance road haulage. Protecting the possibility of gaining or regaining direct rail access to major industrial sites should therefore be at the heart of a long-term strategy for rail.”

To read the full article, see the Scotsman website.


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