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SP Paper 619

  Volume 1 Contents


submission from highlands and islands enterprise

The Highlands and Islands is a distinctive part of Scotland and of the UK as a whole.  It stretches for over 640 kilometres from Shetland in the north to Campbeltown at the southern tip of Argyll.  While encompassing around half of Scotland’s landmass it is home to only 9% of the country’s people.  With a population of around 434,000 the region has one of the lowest population densities within Europe.  It has under 11 people per square kilometre compared with 65 for Scotland and 118 within the EU.  Around 100,000 (23% of the region’s population) live on islands.  The sparsity of population and thus economic activity presents a range of challenges for the region’s transport system.

Located on the North West periphery of the EU, distance dominates almost every aspect of life for our businesses and communities.  For example, the distance from Shetland to Inverness is the same as that from Inverness to North Yorkshire, while London is as near to Milan as it is to Shetland.  Fish being exported from Kinlochbervie in Sutherland has to travel 150 miles until it leaves the Highlands and Islands and approaching a total of 340 miles before it crosses the border into England.  The same product leaving Barra has a journey of around 6 hours (including vehicle check-in time) on the ferry to Oban, from where it continues its onward journey.  If Scotland can be considered peripheral within the European context, then the Highlands and Islands is peripheral within Scotland.

The barriers of distance, terrain and sea are one of the reasons why the region is presently less prosperous than other parts of Scotland.  GDP per capita is only 73% of the Scottish average.  Despite this, the region’s prospects are generally positive.  The Highlands and Islands population grew between 1991 and 2001, while that of Scotland actually declined.  The small scale internal market means that many of our companies have a strong outward focus, selling goods and services outside the region.  In 2002 Highlands and Islands companies exported over £1 billion of goods to countries outside the UK, accounting for 16% of Scotland’s food and drink exports.

HIE recently conducted a consultation exercise with local residents and businesses which was used to inform the development of the HIE Network’s new strategy: A Smart, Successful Highlands & Islands.  Over 1,200 businesses were surveyed and in every question where it was possible to identify transport as an issue it was rated the most important priority.  Those surveyed viewed transport, including freight, as:

  • The most significant challenge facing Highlands and Islands businesses
  • Having the greatest potential to make prosperity and quality of life much better
  • The most important factor in the region’s overall development

Present And Potential Contribution Of All Modes Of Freight Transport


Road transport is the dominant mode for freight transport in the Highlands and Islands and will remain so.  Approximately 8.7 million tonnes of freight are lifted annually by UK HGVs in the Highlands and Islands (excluding Argyll and Bute).  However, existing road traffic flows are such that present levels of HGV volumes on Highlands and Islands roads do not have a significant negative environmental effect.

One of the key issues facing road freight is the inadequate road network for both internal and external journeys.  Unlike other parts of Scotland, congestion is an issue in very few parts of the region.  However, our core trunk road network (A9, A96 and A82) offers only limited overtaking opportunities.  This leads to platoons of traffic and the consequent stress created for all road users by the ability to overtake in only a limited number of places.  On non-dual carriageway stretches HGVs are restricted to 40 miles per hour which exacerbates the platooning effects.

Issues for the A96 include a high level of agricultural traffic and a lack of bypasses of major settlements such as Elgin.  Despite being one of the most populous parts of the Highlands and Islands, and hosting key industries such as whisky and two major RAF bases, Moray has no dual carriageway within its area.  The A83, which links the central belt and southern Argyll, including the major wind turbine manufacturing plant in Kintyre, has stretches of single track road on what is a trunk route.  Inverness is the only UK city without dual carriageway connections.

These issues, along with the poor condition of the road carriageway in some places, results in poor journey time reliability for freight traffic, leading to extra costs for businesses.  Reliability is particularly important for time-sensitive loads from the Highlands and Islands, notably fish and aquaculture products.  They have to meet connections in the Bellshill area for onward forwarding to final UK and mainland European markets.  Failure to meet these significantly reduces the value achieved by Highlands and Islands producers, as the product is one day older when it reaches the final customer.

A recent independent study commissioned by HITRANS appraised the impacts of significant potential improvements to the A82 between Tarbet and Fort William.  Its survey of businesses in the road’s catchment area found that 57% of respondents commonly had transport problems related to receiving or making deliveries-most often through late deliveries due to delays on the road.  In addition, the study’s survey of hauliers found that:

  • They rated the A82 as “very unsatisfactory” in terms of journey time and safety.
  • All reported making allowances to avoid problems on the A82, including leaving additional time and taking alternative routes.  One company stated that 95% of their LGVs divert to other routes even although this adds 45 minutes to the journey time.  The diversion is to avoid the Loch Lomond side stretch of the A82 because the risk of accidents added a significant premium to their insurance costs.
  • They believed that improvements to the A82 would allow them to reduce costs by 2% per annum.

The constraints imposed by the A82 are affecting not only hauliers but also the quality of service and costs for their customers.

The distances referred to earlier mean that road freight transport costs for the region’s businesses are higher than elsewhere in Scotland.  This penalty is compounded by not only poor quality road infrastructure but also relatively high fuel costs.  For larger road freight vehicles fuel can represent between 25% and 30% of total costs (ie vehicle costs, driver costs and overheads).  Fuel prices are a key issue for road freight transport in the Highlands and Islands because:

  • Longer distances are involved in moving goods to/from the region.
  • The quality of road infrastructure means that fuel efficiency is lower than in other areas where the road network is of a higher standard.
  • According to AA data, average diesel prices in the Highlands and Islands are around 4% above that for Scotland as a whole.

The result is higher transport costs for Highlands and Islands businesses, decreasing their competitiveness against those based elsewhere.


High quality and affordable sea freight transport is essential for Scotland’s islands.  In 2004, around 184,000 Commercial Vehicles were moved on Highlands and Islands ferry services, with a further 266,000 lane metres of freight vehicles also recorded. 

The vast majority of the Commercial Vehicles were goods vehicles, rather than coaches.  Almost all sea freight to/from the islands travels by scheduled ferry service, although some bulk commodities (such as coal) move by coastal vessel.

One of the main issues is the cost of moving goods vehicles.  For example, the return trip costs for a 15 metre lorry on the following services are:

  • Lerwick-Aberdeen: (crossing time around 10-12 hours)                  £1,518.
  • Oban-Tiree.       (4 hours):                                                          £697.
  • Colintraive-Bute (5 minutes):                                                       £71.

Clearly, these high costs have to be borne by island businesses.  They are exacerbated by trade imbalances which can lead to vehicles leaving the islands empty such that the cost of a return trip on the ferry is borne solely by the goods being imported to the islands.  A recent study of ferry services in the Western Isles highlighted one Stornoway haulier who commented that it cost almost as much to convey his vehicle to the mainland as between Rosyth and Zeebrugge-some eight times the distance on an unsubsidised service.  The high charges for goods vehicles constrain economic development by making the island locations less competitive and reducing businesses’ profitability.  They compound the inherent disadvantages presented by distance from markets and suppliers.

On the CalMac network, the freight rates used are, in the main, based on those set in the 1970s and were not, unlike passenger and car fares, revised during the 1990s.  The result is anomalies and inconsistencies when individual routes are compared.  There is also little apparent attempt to use pricing to move freight between routes (such as Lochboisdale-Oban and Lochmaddy-Uig) to more effectively manage capacity and move freight from road to sea.

On some routes there is inadequate frequency of sailing, particularly in the winter months.  A number of west coast islands only having three or four sailings per week outside the summer months.  These include some of the more populous islands such as South Uist, where, in particular, output from the aquaculture and fisheries sectors is constrained by the limited sailings in the winter months.  Infrequent services tend to be on longer distance routes which tend to have the highest freight rates.

Service timings on some routes lack a consistent pattern of departure and arrival times.  The vast majority of freight travels on ferries which also convey private traffic.  This necessarily involves compromises between different user groups which can result in schedules which disadvantage freight movements and the businesses for whom goods are being moved.

The forecast increases in volumes of timber and construction traffic will offer opportunities for increased coastal shipping.  In addition, HIE is closely involved in efforts to establish a container transhipment terminal at Scapa Flow and short-sea container traffic out of Inner Moray Firth ports.


Rail freight has grown significantly in the Highlands and Islands within the last decade.  Present flows include: parcels traffic to Inverness; alumina and ingots to/from the Alcan factory at Fort William; fuel oil to Sutherland.  In 2004 the equivalent of around 29,000 lorry loads per annum were conveyed on rail in the Highlands and Islands, effectively removing 7.9 million lorry road miles from the region’s road network. 

Traffic has, however, fallen back in 2005 with the loss of key flows from supermarkets and some of the region’s manufacturers.  Consequently, volumes are around half of those moved in 2004, demonstrating the vulnerability of the region’s total rail freight flows to the decisions of a small number of users.

HIE is the main funder of the Highland Rail Partnership a rail development organisation with representation from the public sector, railway operators and other groups.  It has helped to facilitate new traffic flows.  Most recently it helped fund a trial of road salt movements by rail from the central belt to the Highlands.  In addition, HIE is co-funding a study which will identify key capacity issues on the Highland rail network whose removal could offer improved opportunities for greater freight flows.

However, there is a need to recognise rail does not provide a competitive alternative for many types of freight.  Many freight movements are less are than lorry loads or transported by LGVs, while some travel short distances which cannot bear the additional handling costs incurred by use of rail.  As the 2004 Scottish Transport White Paper states ”while we want to see more freight being transported by rail or water, the vast bulk of freight traffic will continue to be carried by road”.


Air freight plays only a limited role within our region’s transport system.  In 2004, 4,200 tonnes were moved via Highlands and Islands airports, representing 5% of total Scottish air freight volumes.  Air freight to/from locations outside Highlands and Islands airports tend to be: almost wholly outbound flows; conveyed in the bellyholds of passenger aircraft; primary products, notably fish.  Intra‑regional traffic tends to be newspaper deliveries conveyed on scheduled freight services. 

Most Highlands and Islands freight movements tend to be by small turbo-prop aircraft.  These have little environmental impact and much less than those of the larger jet aircraft that operate from the major Scottish airports.  With a significant proportion (63%) of freight being moved in passenger aircraft, the movement of air freight per se has very little additional environmental impact.

HIE has worked with others to develop new dedicated air freight services conveying fish products from the islands.  However, the prospects of achieving these appear slight at present, reflecting the low volumes available for such a service.

Policy Implications are:

  • Development of a long term programme for significant upgrades to the region’s main arterial road routes, rather than the present piecemeal approach.
  • Ongoing monitoring of how Scottish, UK and European policies play out in the Highlands and Islands context.  A future road user charging system offers an avenue to reduce road freight transport costs for the region’s haulage services.
  • Review of the economic impacts of existing freight charges on Highlands and Islands ferry services.  Rates on the CalMac network need be set through a consistent and logical system including, where appropriate, use of pricing to shift lorries from road to sea in line with national policy.  More consideration to be given to the impact of sailing frequency and timings on freight movements and thus on island producers.
  • Ongoing monitoring and evaluation of FFG and Waterborne Freight Grants to assess whether they are achieving their objectives, through considering both the total levels of funding available and scheme criteria.

The region has particular issues relating to distance and the physical barriers of terrain and water.  Efforts to improve regional productivity should not be diluted by poor quality or high cost transport links.  Low traffic volumes mean that the environmental imperative of constraining traffic growth is less relevant than in more populous parts of Scotland.  The distinctiveness of the Highlands and Islands needs to be fully recognised in the forthcoming National Transport Strategy and the subsequent Strategic Transport Projects Review.

submission from british ports association

The British Ports Association (BPA) represents the overwhelming majority of ports in Scotland.  Although ports can be difficult to characterize as their size, markets and management structure vary considerably, it is beyond doubt that the maritime sector makes a hugely significant contribution to the Scottish economy.  In broad terms, these markets break down into servicing the offshore and fishing industries, moving general cargo, providing major ferry links to Ireland and providing links for lifeline services to the islands.  In 2004 Scotland handled 111m tonnes of freight, approximately 20% of the UK total.  The oil and fishing industries in particular are based on the success and efficiency of their maritime connections.  Difficulties in characterizing ports and identifying their individual needs have often led to their marginalization in transport policy.  Equally, the fact that they are not (like other parts of transport) subject to public funding means that their role, needs and potential can be at best misunderstood and at worst ignored when important planning and strategic decisions are taken.

Ports policy in Scotland reflects the policies outlined in “Modern Ports” published in 2000 and which confirm financial and strategic independence.  Even so, ports are heavily dependent on their infrastructure links.  Ports in the south of Scotland nearer to the main UK markets have the potential to supply into northern England and the Midlands as well as Scotland.  Also, because of the availability of natural deep water, Scotland has huge potential to handle container traffic either using the links to the hinterland, as is the case proposed for Hunterston, or turning existing facilities into a hub port, as is the case proposed for the Orkneys.  Bearing in mind development pressures in England and elsewhere, the potential for Scotland to fill the gap in container handling without the consequences of large scale dredging and using already congested roads are important factors for the future. 

Other opportunities include the transhipment of oil from the Arctic and the Baltic for which ports in Scotland are ideally placed.  This is essentially a commercial matter for the ports concerned and the oil industry but we would expect the Scottish Executive to consider sympathetically any necessary consents.  There is potential to increase short sea shipping and make better use of the ports network.  The Freight Facilities Grant scheme has had some successes but the system can be slow and bureaucratic to the extent that commercial opportunities are missed.

The quality of road connections to ports is crucially important.  71% of goods are delivered to and carried away from ports by road compared with 64% in other parts of the UK.  If the ports industry is to protect and develop its potential, it will need to be fully consulted on the new arrangements for road planning.  We note that the new Transport Agency will have responsibility for trunk roads and also rail projects; in parallel, Regional Transport Partnerships will have a major influence on the development of infrastructure links. 

Similar issues apply in ensuring adequate rail connections.  Our experience is that the needs of ports are not sufficiently high on the agenda when rail plans are made.  We have an example of a recent closure of a rail link because the land was required for the development of a supermarket.  This is an example of a generally short sighted policy and again, we believe, the product of a marginalization of the ports industry referred to in paragraph 1.

Both the Agency and the new regional partnerships should develop a better understanding of port needs than has been the case hitherto.  In our experience the Scottish Executive has tended to concentrate on passenger transport and, in the case of shipping, on ferry services which are underpinned by public support.  Of course these issues are important but we believe they have taken attention away from the commercial port and shipping sector.  The fact that the Agency is locating to Glasgow whereas the Ports Division of the Scottish Executive will (so far as we know) remain in Edinburgh raises issues of communication and integration.  Ports need a seat at the table when important decisions are being made which can affect the viability of freight transport.

On which theme, it is difficult to know precisely where the “table” is located.  At a regional level, ports have varying experiences in achieving active participation in transport strategies; there seems to be no set route for a port to be represented.  As the new Agency is specifically looking at major road and rail projects, these could have a fundamental influence on port development.  We have yet to see what plans the Agency has to take into account port and linking transport infrastructure needs; we would expect it to be a priority when the Agency starts its work.

In conclusion:-

  • Ports underpin vitally important economic sectors but have tended to be sidelined in transport policy discussions.
  • There is potential for greater use of existing port capacity and for new container capacity to serve UK needs.
  • Ports must be consulted on their infrastructure links as part of the restructuring under the new Transport Act.

supplementary evidence from british ports association

The UK ports industry is financially and strategically independent of government.  This has produced significant benefits.  The situation in Continental ports is entirely different where port infrastructure is seen as a public investment which can legitimately receive state funds as part of the national transport infrastructure.  This policy (which leads to distortions between UK and Continental ports) is nevertheless a recognition of the importance of ports in driving economic growth and regenerating local economies.  Although we do not wish to adopt the Continental funding and public policy model, at the same time it is vital that the significance of ports to the economy is clearly recognized.

There is a growing tendency for the government to require contributions by port developers for connecting infrastructure links.  This can of course add considerably to the cost of a development even though the new links will be used by a range of other users and will benefit the regional and the national economy.  Projects in greenfield and brownfield sites can be particularly jeopardized by such additional cost burdens and could make the difference between a project moving ahead or being abandoned, especially if funding for the connection is required in advance.  The nature of port developments means that it takes time to develop sufficient revenue streams and extra infrastructure costs can become a deciding factor.  We believe that it should be the full responsibility of governments to fund connecting infrastructure.  At the very least, the burden should be shared between all those who benefit.  Certainly, the ability of Scotland to play a significant role in the national and global economy is dependent on proper investment in the infrastructure which can support these aims; we look to the new Transport Agency to secure this.

On Freight Facilities Grants, a further issue is the problem for new ventures where income has yet to materialize.  It is different for projects which build on an existing business as there is already some means of revenue generation.  We believe the grant levels for new ventures are currently inadequate and should be reviewed, particularly as their purpose is to reduce congestion on land modes.

18 April (11th Meeting, Session 2 (2006)) Official Report

18 April (11th Meeting, 2006 (Session 2) – Written Evidence

Submission from spt

Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), the most populous (2.2 million) of the seven regional partnerships established by the Transport (Scotland) Act 2005, includes the whole of the council areas of East and West Dunbartonshire; North and South Lanarkshire; Glasgow City; Renfrewshire; East Renfrewshire; Inverclyde; North, South and East Ayrshire; and the Helensburgh and Lomond areas of Argyll and Bute.  Freight infrastructure within the partnership area includes: Glasgow International and Glasgow Prestwick airports; large ports at Ayr, Troon, Ardrossan, Hunterston, Greenock and Glasgow; a number of smaller harbours and ports which are used by both freight and passenger services; international freight facilities at Deanside, Eurocentral, Gartsherrie, and Clydebank; an extensive regional rail network available to freight trains; and a regional road network that includes 234kms of motorway with 50 junctions; and 415kms of other trunk roads.  Whilst there has been strong growth in the financial and service sectors over the last few years, sectors such as manufacturing, retail and distribution, all of which depend on efficient freight movement, are important contributors to the regional economy.

Having been established for only a short time, the new partnership has not had the opportunity to consider freight movement in detail, but there is no doubt that freight will be a key issue in the regional transport strategy.  The constituent local authorities will consider local freight issues when each is preparing its local transport strategy, but it is accepted that the nature of traffic movement across the region will mean that the partnership will have to develop an effective co-ordinated freight strategy.  Prior to the partnership being set up, discussions were held between officials of Westrans, the former Joint Committee of local authorities, and representatives of the freight industry, and an agreement was reached that the new partnership should be asked to sponsor a formal regional Freight Quality Partnership.  It is anticipated that SPT will agree to do so and that a Freight Quality Partnership will be established in early summer.  The new partnership has begun the process of preparing its statutory regional strategy and has hosted a series of seminars involving key stakeholders.  At the seminar which focused on freight issues, a number of key issues emerged, some of which we were aware of, and some of which were new to us.

Among the emerging issues are:

There is a lack of consolidated data available to inform key decisions.  The Scottish Executive has recently collected information to enable it to prepare the national freight strategy.  It is understood that this will be made available to regional and local transport authorities, but it will be necessary for the partnership to collect information on a regional basis to allow it to prepare its freight strategy.  The partnership intends to commission that work.

The proposed development of Hunterston will lead to a large increase in land-based freight traffic to and from the port.  It is hoped that most of that will be transported from the port by rail, but that will require an increase in rail capacity between the port and its markets.  Specifically, the Glasgow and South-Western rail line between Mauchline and the English border which is single track at present requires to be made double track, and the height gauge increased.  Freight trains travelling north and east from Hunterston make use of the line between Paisley/St James and Shields Junction in Glasgow, a heavily congested line also used by passenger services between Glasgow and the Clyde coast.  It is essential that the upgrade proposed as part of the Glasgow Airport Rail Link proceeds.  Road links to Hunterston also give cause for concern with both the A78/A8 through Largs, Wemyss Bay and Greenock, and the A78 southbound through Seamill being unsuitable for large numbers of heavy goods vehicles.  The deep sea facilities at Hunterston are unique in Scotland and further development there would provide a port of international significance which would be an important national asset.  It is to be hoped that the Scottish Executive will work with the port owners and SPT to enable that asset to reach its full potential. 

There is concern that several ports’ potential to deal with new freight markets is being compromised by housing and other development being built on and adjacent to the ports.  Unlike rail solums, there is no protection offered to land which formerly was used as part of a port, and this has led to land which has fallen into disuse being redeveloped for other purposes.  These changes can prevent the possibility of a return to use by commercial traffic and lead to a gradual erosion of the viability of sea and river borne freight.

The partnership intends to examine whether it would be feasible to reduce the amount of timber being transported by road, by improving facilities for rail and water transport.  An example is the movement of timber from Arran to the mainland, a journey currently undertaken by lorry and ferry.  It would be preferable for timber to be moved directly to a jetty near the forests in southern Arran, from where it could be loaded onto a ship to be transported directly to the user, or to a railhead.  However there appear to be no suitable jetties on Arran and the Partnership will work with other interested parties to find a solution to the problem.  SPT will work with HITRANS if similar problems become apparent regarding the transport of timber or other goods between Kintyre or the Cowal peninsula and Ayrshire.

Many of the goods transported to the continent from the west of Scotland are carried through Rosyth.  The road links around that port do not meet the needs of an international freight terminal and we will support SESTRAN and Fife Council in any move to improve that situation.  Another example of the need to work with another partnership is firstly to address issues relating to goods being transported from Cairnryan, which is in Galloway, but only 3km from our area.  Much of the freight is moved to the central belt, via the A77, which is within the SPT area but long convoys of goods vehicles often create difficult driving conditions on this trunk road.  We will work to address this problem with all interested parties.

Other key roads issues that the Partnership will examine are the lack of a suitable route to transport goods from Ayrshire to the M74 and the south; the substandard conditions on A737, which connects business in north Ayrshire, including the port of Ardrossan, with the Scottish motorway network; and the poor conditions on A82 north of Tarbet, a key route between the central belt and the north.

Congestion and pollution are important issues in west-central Scotland, and the Partnership will support any move, where appropriate, to transfer road based freight movement to rail, including encouraging bids for rail freight grants.  However there have been complaints from business that the bureaucracy in applying for these grants discourages them from doing so.  The Executive should be encouraged to simplify the application process and be more proactive in working with industry to prepare grant bids.

Road traffic generated from open-cast coal extraction in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire can cause major damage to connecting roads and disturbance to residents of adjacent villages.  Government at all levels needs to ensure that as much as possible of the coal is transported directly by rail from the open cast sites to the customers, often coal fired power stations which are already connected to the rail network.  This might involve re-opening redundant rail lines, building new sidings, and/or increasing the gauge of existing lines.  SPT will work with our partners to address this problem.

The formation of Strathclyde Partnership for Transport gives an opportunity to deal with freight issues in an integrated and co-ordinated way across the region, taking environmental issues into account.  SPT will do all it can to encourage business by developing a close working relationship with the freight industry.  Officials have already reached agreement with the freight industry on the formation of a regional Freight Quality Partnership and are working with the industry to prepare a freight strategy.  We consider the freight industry to be key contributors to our regional transport strategy and will work with them and the Executive, where appropriate to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the industry.

submission from hitrans

HITRANS is a voluntary partnership comprising:-

    • Argyll and Bute Council;
    • Comhairle nan Eilean Siar;
    • Highland Council;
    • Highlands and Islands Enterprise;
    • Highlands and Islands Public Transport Forum;
    • North Ayrshire Council (Arran and the Cumbraes);
    • Moray Council;
    • Orkney Islands Council;
    • Scottish Council Development and Industry
    • Shetland Islands Council;

The Partnership will wind up in March 2006 when the new Statutory Regional Partnerships come into being.

Its objects are to undertake research and gather information about the transport needs of the region; to prepare and keep up to date a regional transport strategy endorsed by all the partners; to implement regional transport projects; to act as the strategic consultation body on behalf of the partners; and to establish a dialogue with government, users and operators.

The following comments relate to the call for evidence issued on 7 October 2005 on the future prospects for road haulage; the contribution of freight transport to the economy; and progress with transfer of freight from road to other modes.


The Highlands and Islands is a diverse region with a mixture of remote, rural and urban areas.  It is distinctive because of long internal travel distances, often with sea crossings, and long transport links with Central Scotland.  Freight from the Moray Firth area has to travel almost 200 miles to reach key interchanges like Mossend.  Freight from the islands has ferry crossings of between three and fourteen hours just to reach the mainland.  These penalties of distance impose significant extra cost on our businesses.  Despite this they account for over 16% of Scotland’s food and drink exports and over £1 billion of exported goods.

The primary objective driving the HITRANS Strategy is to improve the region’s transport services and its external transport links to make a more attractive place for investment and to sustain existing businesses by reducing transport costs, journey times and journey reliability.  Our strategic priorities for investment include the improvement of lifeline routes in the west to reduce the cost and slowness of transport of goods; developing strategic, multi-modal freight interchanges to provide quicker access to markets; upgrading the key trunk roads which enable travel to and from the region (A82, A96, A9, A95); upgrading the capacity of the rail network to carry more freight; and introducing faster more frequent ferries or replacing ferry crossings where possible with fixed links.

The importance of freight transport to the region’s economy has been revealed in the recent HIE consultation with business regarding the new network strategy where the highest priority of most respondents for maintaining and growing prosperity was improvement to transport infrastructure.

Road Haulage

This is the dominant mode of freight transport in the region carrying over 9 million tonnes per annum.  There has been little impact on these volumes by modal shift of freight over recent years.  HITRANS has recently commissioned research into the economic benefit deriving from improving the A9 north of Inverness, and the A82 from Glasgow to Fort William.  In both cases almost two thirds of the respondents to our surveys for these studies stated that they had problems with the reliability of road transport because of the inadequacies of these roads.  The A82 on Loch Lomondside and the A9 at Berriedale are examples of the inadequate state of these key arterial routes which are causing significant problems for road haulage.  Improving the A82 to a fit for purpose modern road, not a dual carriageway, would help generate a further 1000 jobs in the West Highlands and some £450 million of new business.

For the future road haulage will remain the predominant mode of freight transport for our region.  This means that all our arterial routes will continue to be lifelines for freight.  The A96 suffers from congestion, particularly east of Inverness and through Moray.  With NESTRANS and the Scottish Executive we are about to embark on a corridor study of the transport route between Inverness and Aberdeen.  We are confident that this study will reveal the significant economic benefit deriving from improvements to the A96, and it is important that this road features as a priority in the forthcoming strategic projects review.  We have also supported the short term WS2+1 sections on the A9 south of Inverness to improve overtaking and we are concerned that these are not being provided quickly enough.  Our long term aim is for the dualing of this route.  The A95 is a key link for Moray, and the A83 is vital for southern Argyll, and both require investment to make freight transport journey times more reliable.

Four years ago we undertook a study of the lifeline rural road network in the west of the region.  The key issues here are the slowness and unreliability of journeys caused by single track roads, and the risk of further vehicle weight restrictions on the obsolete bridge structures.  Some 4000 jobs in the remotest parts of the region are at risk if modern freight vehicles are denied access.  This is exemplified by the current concerns on Mull following the intention to impose weight restrictions on most of the islands roads.  We have identified an investment programme of £20 million per annum for the next 20 years to improve these roads and replace the obsolete structures so that road hauliers can have full access to these areas, but funds are not available to the Local Authorities.

Road haulage to the islands relies on the ferry network.  Over 200,000 freight vehicles are carried by our ferries each year.  HITRANS has just completed a study of our strategic sea crossings.  The key issue for freight is the high cost of transporting lorries with charges that have not been reviewed for many years.  They are significantly higher than cross channel charges, charges to the Isle of Wight, or even the Rosyth to Zeebrugge service, all of which are operated privately without subsidy.  There are also issues about the frequency of ferry sailings and timings which make it difficult to connect at key places like Mossend.

Modal shift for freight

As mentioned above we do not see other modes making a substantial contribution to the movement of the region’s freight over the foreseeable future.  Rail freight has declined in 2005 with the removal of supermarket traffic.  There are no freight trains now on the line between Inverness and Elgin.  There are capacity issues on our single track rail network and HITRANS, HIE and the Highland Rail Development partnership are contributing to the current national studies by undertaking specific analysis of capacity constraints and demand for rail in the region.  We believe there will be opportunities for rail to take a bigger share of freight in future by investing in capacity improvement to the Highland main line and the re-gauging between Inverness and Elgin.  A new road/rail interchange in Inverness is vital for this modal shift.  There is also the prospect of significant timber movement into the Cromarty Firth area if new wood processing developments are realised.  The rail network north of Inverness has theoretical capacity to carry 40% more trains than the current number, but there needs to be investment in a sea/rail interchange if this potential rail freight traffic is to be realised.

There may be opportunities for shift to sea.  HITRANS has not been closely involved in this topic to date, but partners have been assessing the prospects for more coastal shipping and the provision of sea container transfer facilities in Orkney and the Cromarty Firth.

Environmental Impact

HITRANS has commissioned work to prepare a Strategic Environmental Assessment of our Transport Strategy.  In terms of freight we have assumed that road hauled freight will increase in the region with economic growth, and that the prospects of modal shift to rail and sea will not significantly diminish this increase.  Therefore there will be a greater number of lorry movements on the road network and higher levels of NO2 and CO2 emissions.

Air quality is good at present throughout the region and there are no designated Air Quality Management areas.  There are localised issues of NO2 emissions related to congestion in Inverness and Oban.  Road hauled freight contributes to this and the issue is to decongest the key urban streets.

Greenhouse gas volumes will rise from a growth in road Freight.  In terms of impact on global climate change the additional CO2 produced is difficult to quantify.

Transport noise is not an issue in the region except on congested urban routes.  It is unlikely that there will be significant rise in noise levels in the corridors of our main arterial routes with the prospective growth in road freight.  However the localised urban noise issues need to be tackled.

submission from tnt

TNT Express operates in Scotland from purpose built depots in:

  • Glasgow Bellshill
  • Edinburgh Airport
  • Stirling
  • Aberdeen
  • Inverness

We are currently building a second additional depot near Glasgow Airport at a cost of £7m that will open November 2006 and will employ another 140 people.  We employ over 900 people in Scotland and we currently operate an A300 into Edinburgh Airport each night.

Our sister organisation TNT Logistics operating dedicated contracted transport and warehousing employs a similar number of people within Scotland.

TNT Express Services provides Sameday and Next Day delivery of documents, parcels and freight both domestically within the UK and across the world.

TNT Express Services is the country’s leading business-to-business express delivery company. Established in the UK in 1978, the company has developed its dominant position in the time-sensitive express delivery market through organic growth and, with an annual turnover well in excess of £750 million, it employs 10,600 people in the UK and Ireland and operates more than 3,500 vehicles from over 70 locations.

TNT Express Services UK and Ireland delivers hundreds of thousands of consignments every week – in excess of 50 million items per year.

Globally, TNT Express delivers 3.5 million parcels, documents and pieces of freight a week to over 200 countries using its network of nearly 900 depots, hubs and sortation centres.  TNT Express operates over 19,000 road vehicles and 43 aircraft and has the biggest door-to-door air and road express delivery infrastructure in Europe.

TNT Express employs over 48,000 staff worldwide and is the first ever organisation to achieve global recognition as an Investor in People.  The company reported revenue in 2005 of €5.3 billion. Profits of €474 million earned by TNT Express during 2005 were higher by 25.1% than the same period in 2004 (€375 million).

TNT Express is owned by its Dutch-based parent company TNT N.V. which employs 128,000 people globally.


Congestion Impact on Road Transport

The provision of fast smooth flowing road networks is essential to the provision of an efficient and cost effective collection and delivery service.

We currently experience severe congestion on the M8, M74 and A80 at peak times of the day.  One of the key reasons for a second depot in Glasgow is to avoid the congestion crossing the Kingston Bridge.

This congestion not only increases the number of vehicles we need to operate but increases the environmental impact.

Freight Imbalance

The Scottish economy is a net importer from wider UK and from Europe.  This provides an imbalance in the freight flow volumes into/out of Scotland.

Whilst this is in part due to a reduction in the size and output of the High Technology sector into Scottish area around Glasgow and Edinburgh we are also experiencing a rise in industries such as Clinical Trials which have a lighter size and weight profile.

The imbalance is further highlighted by the fact that each working day sees up to a dozen linehaul vehicles returning empty from Scotland to the North-West of England and the Midlands.  These vehicles have to make the southbound journey at these times as part of a strategic operations but it would be advantageous from a commercial perspective, as well as environmental, to have these lorries carrying freight.  If the capacity could be utilized it would directly reduce the need for other lorries to be on the road, carrying freight and adding to traffic volumes.

If a solution is not forthcoming the situation strengthens the argument for a greatly enhanced rail service to cater specifically for one-way movements of freight.

Night Time Flying Restrictions

The ability for our customers in Scotland to have fast and reliable Express delivery into and out of Scotland is vital for the B2 B economy.  Scotland being at the edge of the main European economic bloc is highly dependent on air as well as road connectivity.  Any restriction to evening/early morning flight arrivals would have a severe detrimental impact.

Migration to Rail

TNT Express is an integrator and operates across various modes.  We have worked with EWS Railways in the past to consider a rail connection from our Hubs in the English Midlands via Walsall to Motherwell and onto Aberdeen.  Unfortunately so far this service is approximately double the cost per item compared to an articulated vehicle.  With the finalisation of the West Coast improvements we will revisit this area during 2006.

Increasing The Capacity of the Road Networks

Obvious ways to increase network capacity apart form widening or building roads include shifting more journeys to the night hours and allowing the use of some hard shoulders during peak periods.

The use of hard shoulders on motorways is already a regular occurrence when roads are being maintained and our proposal is simply to extend this practice by the use of variable messaging matrix signs that can provide more traffic capacity in peak periods.

Consideration should also be given to introduction of variable speed limits that include a maximum of 80 mph for cars on motorways dependent on weather and road conditions.  The current 70 mph limit does not harmonise with France or Italy and could be described as too low for modern cars.

The M25 rush hour variable speed limit concept appears to have eased congestion and our recommendation is to extend this idea to other key motorway sections such as the M6 through Birmingham.

A specific concern for TNT and other commercial road users is the proposal to exclude commercial vehicles from the Forth Road Bridge.  This would have far-reaching consequences in relation to costs, productivity and service levels and would be damaging to substantial sectors of Scotland’s business community.

Improving the Flow of Traffic

The current LGV 40mph speed limit on single carriageway roads restricts the flow of traffic and creates hazardous overtaking situations that involve car drivers who are frustrated by speed differentials with commercial vehicles.

We feel many roads could be reclassified and this would provide an opportunity to selectively increase the LGV speed limit to 50mph in safe places on single carriageway A roads.

The current proposal by the EU to limit 7.5 tonne trucks to 56 mph using speed limiters will create additional congestion on motorways by increasing the population of slower moving vehicles and our view is these changes should be resisted by the government.

Roundabouts above motorway junctions and where major A roads intersect are pinch points that cause significant congestion so in our opinion consideration should be given to upgrading these bottlenecks by adding slip roads dedicated to left only turning traffic.

Traffic lights on major roundabouts and at entrance ramps to motorways appear in some places to be ineffective.  The traffic lights are often not synchronised thereby creating congestion at peak periods and we propose such schemes should be carefully reviewed before any more are introduced.

Tidal flow systems controlled by the overhead gantry variable signs at peak periods could be introduced to reduce congestion on many more major urban routes.

More green wave traffic light systems should be introduced so that after being stopped at one set of lights vehicles can ride the wave through all subsequent sets as long as the speed limit is observed and we believe this measure should become mandatory for all major urban or other strategic roads.

The American concept of ‘turn right on red’ could be adapted for UK traffic to ‘turn left on red’ and this would significantly reduce queuing times at little or no extra cost apart from that involved in putting up the appropriate signs.

Improving Management of Roads

A major cause of congestion is adverse weather conditions and road traffic accidents.  Research shows that it takes an average of 2.5 hours to clear up a major accident on a main road but this statistic masks the havoc caused by incidents such as snow on the M11 which resulted in gridlock for more than ten hours in January 2003.

A single independent customer focused network operator accountable for provision of network road infrastructures and management of all strategic roads (with responsibility for dealing with accidents) is desperately required to alleviate congestion.

Consideration should be given to selective closures of access routes that serve motorways where an incident has caused the closure of a motorway.  A recent example is closure of the M42 at the NEC junction due to a road traffic accident and yet traffic from the M6 North was still allowed onto the congested section of the M42.  Failure to divert the M6 North vehicles away from the congested section caused gridlock for the existing M42 traffic and a slowdown on the M6 due to tailbacks.  Better management practice would have closed the junction from the M6 thereby forcing its traffic around Birmingham whilst allowing the M42 motorway traffic to flow off onto the A45 trunk road.

We understand proposals to improve the management of roads have been accepted but these will take three years to implement and this seems unduly slow for taking vital steps that are urgently needed to alleviate congestion.

Real Time Traffic Information

More real time traffic information should be provided for motorists to minimise the build up of tailbacks and to encourage the switching of vehicles to less congested alternative routes.

A wide variety of communication channels are needed that include matrix messages, signs, text messages, internet displays and voice messages such as the AA Roadwatch service (2222) and RDS messages via the radio.

Better processes are needed to gather real time information that can be quickly communicated to road users together with preferred diversion suggestions and these measures are required now to minimise congestion.

Congestion in urban areas could be reduced if car parking schemes that include park and ride facilities are connected to matrix messaging signs on motorways which display how many spaces are available thereby encouraging drivers to leave their vehicles on the edge of towns.

submission from confederation of forest industries


The haulage of round timber1 has been hit hard by the intensifying pressures on the sector; specifically fuel prices, taxation and the Working Time Directive.  Although these factors have had significant negative impacts on haulage generally they have been particularly acute for the timber industry.

Increasing regulation and rising fuel prices are limiting the potential for economic growth and job creation in Scotland on the back of the increasing timber resource.

The situation is compounded by institutional and policy constraints, specifically maintenance of the rural road network, and have wider implications for both Scotland’s economy and Natural Heritage.

Opportunities for alternatives to road haulage are being explored but are limited by the location of Scotland’s forests in relation to water and rail routes.

Scottish Timber Industry in context

It is estimated that around 40,000 jobs in Scotland depend on the forest industries and that if the sector were to disappear it would result in a fall in gross output of £811m.  This industry and these jobs depend on an active and competitive haulage sector.

The forestry industry is a low margin, heavily regulated industry, which must compete on an international market.  For a variety of reasons and despite concerted efforts, the transportation of timber is a weak point in the supply chain, representing a high proportion of delivered-in costs.  The cost figures compare poorly with international benchmarks.  The pressures on the timber haulage community from increasing fuel costs and the Working Time Directive (WTD), combined with industry codes of practice, regulations and voluntary agreements, are forcing hauliers out of business. 

The WTD has added around 30% to the wage bill of hauliers, representing, in combination with the increases in fuel prices a cost increase of around 20% since the introduction of the directive earlier in the year.  Figures vary between different businesses.

The UK imports around 85% of its processed timber and we must compete on an international market.  The price of round timber in the UK has been severely depressed in the UK for the last few years.  The supply chain in the forest industry is very tight and it is extremely difficult for hauliers to pass on their costs to customers or suppliers.

The main markets for timber in the UK are in the high population areas of England.  The cost of hauling finished goods from processors in NE Scotland to key markets in SE England is now greater than the cost of shipping for Scandinavian competitors to those same markets.

The trend of timber haulage businesses disappearing is set to continue and the future of the timber haulage industry is uncertain.  The implications of this for the forestry and timber industries is unclear. 

The commercial decision to harvesting timber is taken by comparing the commercial cost of harvesting and hauling timber as compared to the price that can be paid by a processor for that timber.  As the cost of haulage increases, less and less of the available timber can be harvested on a commercial basis.  The loss to the Scottish economy as a whole is significantly higher.  The Scottish Executive Input-Output Tables and Multipliers for Scotland indicate that the direct multiplier factor for forest harvesting is 2.9 and is 3.8 for employment.  Lost production in forest harvesting has significant impacts on the wider Scottish economy.

Rising fuel prices and additional regulation will certainly reduce the timber available as raw material to the Scottish timber industry and consequently impact on jobs and the wider Scottish economy.

Impacts on Scotland’s Forest Heritage

Timber haulage is a fragile link in the supply chain essential to both Scotland’s timber industry and the management of Scotland’s forests.  The forest industry underpins the management of Scottish forests and the environmental and social benefits that they provide.  The annual aggregate value of the social and environmental benefits provided by Scotland’s forests is estimated at over £100 million per year.  Round timber hauliers enable the timber processing industry in Scotland to buy timber which in turn pays for the management of Scotland’s Forests.  Without a haulage sector much of Scotland’s forestry heritage would not be managed and would not generate many of these social and environmental benefits.  The Forests in Scotland are some of the best managed in the world.  Indeed, around 80% of timber harvested from Scottish forests achieve internationally recognised social and environmental certification.

Much of the imported timber against which the home grown timber competes does not match these high standards.

Additional transportation costs are borne by hauliers whilst the benefits of Scotland’s managed forests are enjoyed by the wider community.

Why have fuel price increases and the regulatory framework impacted so heavily on the round timber haulage?

The roundwood haulage sector is different in several key ways from the general haulage industry:

Timber haulage accounts for broadly 20% to 50% of the cost of wood delivered to Scottish mills and is therefore a key factor in determining the profitability and competitiveness of the sector.  The high cost of transport is recognised as a key area in which the UK forestry is not internationally competitive.  In part this is a consequence of nature of the rural roads infrastructure, which was not designed for timber transport.  However, the high cost of timber transport in Scotland is to a large degree a function of taxation policies, regulations and restrictions.  Compared to our international competitors, the relatively high proportion of the cost of fuel accounted for by taxation puts the industry at a significant competitive disadvantage. 

Where many of our international competitors are permitted to use a “dual-fuel” system (using lower cost red diesel for part of their haulage) the system is not permitted under current interpretation of legislation in Scotland.  As the industry seeks innovative solutions to reducing on-road haulage by using in-forest roads instead, not allowing a “dual-fuel” system limits the options open to the industry.  The importance of the “dual-fuel” option to economic growth is significantly higher in Scotland than in other parts of the UK given the proportionally higher forest cover in the country.

Road conditions and costs

Much of the driving must be done on poor roads, and rough in-forest roads.  These conditions have higher fuel costs than the better quality roads over which most of Scotland’s hauliers operate.  Roundwood hauliers operate on approximately half the number of miles per gallon than general hauliers.  Poor road conditions also result in higher running costs, estimated at 5 times for in-forest roads and 2.5 times for rural roads as compared with the costs of general hauliers.  Increases in fuel costs have a disproportionately big impact on round timber haulage as compared to general hauliers.

Specialist skills

Given the remote locations that forests are situated in and from which round wood hauliers must pick up loads, drivers must also double as crane operators and mechanics.  They must be able to negotiate narrow and technically challenging in-forest road conditions.  Drivers must understand, be able to interpret and conform with various codes of practice that are specific to the forest industry.  They require specialised and multiple skills and drivers with these skills are in short supply.  It is not possible to use agency drivers for round timber haulage.  Timber hauliers command higher wages than general hauliers. 

Drivers must load and unload the logs from their trucks using onboard cranes.  Crucially, in terms of the requirements of the WTD drivers cannot use loading or unloading times as Periods of Availability.  The delegation of the loading and unloading responsibilities from the driver is common amongst general hauliers.  Loading and unloading represents around 20% of the driver’s working time.

To comply with the Working Time Directive and to move the same amount of timber hauliers have to employ additional drivers.  These drivers command wages higher than general hauliers.  Increases in the number of drivers required to move the same volume of goods has a disproportionately large impact on round timber haulage as compared to general hauliers.

Specialist machinery

Specialist round timber lorries are unable to carry a wide range of goods, unlike most general freight transporters.  They are designed for the difficult conditions in which round timber hauliers operate.  As such, it is not possible for round timber lorries to arrive with raw materials and leave with finished goods.  Flexibility in the use of the lorries is severely restricted, limiting the logistical efficiency of lorry routing.  Opportunities for flexible working to minimise the impacts of the WTD are limited given the specialist nature of the industry and the lorries.

Alternatives to road haulage

Alternatives such as rail, sea and inland waterway, are being explored but are only viable in a limited number of cases.  A fundamental constraint is the relative location of the forest resource, the processing facilities and the alternative transportation networks (rail or water).  The cost of infrastructure development for water or rail transport is prohibitive in almost all cases for timber, given its low value.  An indicative value of a lorry load of timber would be in the order of £500.  There are also significant institutional difficulties in developing rail alternatives to road haulage.


Increasing costs of hauling round timber will mean that less of the timber that is available for harvesting can be economically harvested.  There will be a consequent and potentially very significant impact both on the forestry and timber industry and on the wider Scottish economy.

There are opportunities for supporting the haulage and transport sectors of the Scottish economy, including timber transport, that will bring much wider benefit to the Scottish economy as a whole.  These opportunities should be explored and must be grasped if we are to grow a healthy, sustainable and productive economy.

submission from Mining (scotland) ltd

About Mining (Scotland) Ltd (MSL)

MSL is the holding company for the Scottish Coal Company Limited (SCCL), and for Scottish Biofuel (SBF).  Scottish Coal is the largest coal producer in Scotland, and is the largest opencast coal producer in UK, delivering some 4.0m tonnes of quality, low sulphur coal into the UK energy market.  We own or lease 15,000 ha of land in Scotland, and employ around 850 people, many in deprived rural communities in Central and Southern Scotland with few alternative employment opportunities.  In addition, MSL owns the largest open cast coal mining fleet in Europe.

The Group is diversifying into biomass production through SBF, partly to blend with coal to provide a greener product for our electricity generating customers, and partly to process for supply to Scottish BioPower, a related company which is developing a number of biomass power stations, including one at Tullis Russell in Glenrothes.

A common thread through MSL’s work is the bulk handing and distribution of conveyable materials.  We have access to the UK rail network through the railhead and loading facilities we own and operate, and others that we lease and operate.  We manage and control around 100 HGVs, and we own and operate 5km of overland conveyors to transport our product from source to distribution.


The historical pattern of development of the electricity supply industry in Great Britain was such that coal-fired power stations were built on or close to coalfields to minimise transport costs.  In Scotland, prior to 1995 coal from the Lothians went to Cockenzie, from Fife to Longannet, from Lanarkshire short-haul to both stations, and from Ayrshire to Hunterston for export to Northern Ireland.  Thus the strain on the rail freight network was limited.

After 1995 however, restrictions on the SO2 emissions from UK power stations have meant that the two Scottish stations have had to import ultra-low sulphur coal from abroad, and the bulk of the low sulphur Scottish coal production, about 6mte per annum, has had to be transported south to English power stations.  Coupled with imports through Hunterston, Rosyth and Leith of a similar amount, the extra strain on the rail freight network is considerable.  And this after a lengthy period of little investment in the network, and recent increases in passenger traffic.

MSL wants to move as much of its product as possible by rail because of the cost and environmental benefits.  But it is continually frustrated by the difficulty of securing reliable rail slots to deliver its product to its customers when they need it.  This affects transport down the East and West coast routes into England, and also transport north and south through the congested Glasgow-Edinburgh corridor.  We work closely with EWS, our main transport partner, but in a 6‑week period this winter we suffered 167 lost trains which would have carried £5m worth of coal, and which resulted in £3m worth of saleable coal being stockpiled on site.

In our view therefore, there is a clear need for investment to increase the capacity of the GB rail freight network.  The fitting of Flue Gas Desulphurisation at Longannet in 2008 may reduce somewhat the long haul transport of coal south to England, but the basic problem of congestion will remain for any Scottish business wishing to deliver bulk products by rail to its markets reliably and on time.

Network Rail is working with the Scottish Executive and the Department for Transport on a Freight Route Utilisation Study, which is due for consultation in September 2006.  We welcome this development and look forward to participating in it, but the problems are urgent and need early action.

One piece of action that would increase the efficiency of the rail slot system, would be to build faculties to allow the assembling of longer trains.  In the USA, 15,500te coal trains are common, but the largest currently operated in GB is 1,200te.  Each train uses one rail slot, so moving the same amount of coal requires nearly 13 times more rail slots in GB than it does in the USA.  If suitable sidings were built at strategic points off the mainlines, then longer trains could be assembled before being sent to their destinations and disassembled at the power station.


MSL makes significant use of road transport, mainly through contractors for short haul journeys.  For instance, coal is transported by lorry from St Ninnians in Fife the short distance to the Westfield terminal where it is loaded on to rail wagons and carried south.  The road freight industry is efficient, flexible and competitive.

The main strategic issue we encounter is the congestion in the Glasgow-Edinburgh corridor.  This adds uncertainty and time to journeys through it, and hence the difficulty of managing movements as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.


MSL makes limited use of port facilities on the East and West coasts to import coal.  GB port capacity is restricted in some areas, probably more south of the border than north, though Scotland’s main deep-water facility, Hunterston, is not ideally placed for connection to the main road or rail networks.  Once coal is landed it faces the same problems of access to markets in the south as does indigenous coal.

Strategic Transport Planning

In our opinion there has been a lack of necessary investment in the freight transport network and strategic planning of it in recent decades.  There is an opportunity for this to change with the devolution of responsibility for the Scottish rail network to the Scottish Executive and with the development of the Executive’s Strategic Planning Framework.

The integration and effectiveness of the rail and road networks could be improved by the creation of two, strategically placed, transport hubs – one south and one north of the congested Glasgow‑Edinburgh corridor – where the rail and motorway networks come together.  Possible locations are near Elvanfoot and near Bridge of Earn.  These locations would avoid the problems of the Mossend hub right at the centre of one of the most congested parts of the road network.

MSL is not in a position to conduct the studies necessary to establish the case for these new hubs, but our long experience of freight transport suggests that they are worth at least a preliminary exploration.

supplementary evidence from confederation of forest industries

Impact of the working time directive on road haulage costs in this sector:

How has this so far affected labour requirements and haulage costs in the timber transport sector? Might it be possible to change current operating practices to mitigate the effects of the WTD on this sector?

The introduction of the WTD has resulted in an aggregate 10%-20% cost increase across the timber haulage sector.

The cost increase since introduction of the WTD has coincided with other cost increases, notably fuel.  The 10%-20% figure excludes increases attributable to other inputs, such as fuel, and is not simply a comparison of total costs pre and post WTD.

The cost increase attributable to WTD varies between hauliers.  Most obviously the impact has been minimal amongst owner operators who are exempt.  These operators occupy a niche market, often based on long term relationships with a small number of clients.  The larger haulage firms who move the bulk of Scotland’s timber have reported that the WTD has represented a significant administrative burden.  The cost of administering the directive is not assessed.  It has required fundamental changes in working practice, particularly through restructuring shifts and working patterns.  Cost increases would have been significantly higher if working practices had not been modified.  All large operators have been actively recruiting for additional staff.  Not all hauliers have been able to recruit additional drivers and as a result in certain areas there is a shortage of transport.

Use of red diesel in trucks operating on forest roads:

Has the Confederation estimated by how much the transport cost per tonne for timber would fall if this measure were implemented?  Given that there is currently significant infringement of red diesel regulations, is the Confederation confident that this measure could be adequately enforced in the timber sector?

In aggregate, across the industry approximately 40% of total haulage costs are accounted for by fuel.  30% of the fuel used in haulage is off-road, and red diesel is approximately 50% of the cost of non-rebated diesel per litre.  On this basis the use of red diesel whilst in-forest and contained in dual tanks in vehicles travelling both in-forest and on the public road would represent a 6% cost reduction.  With an average haulage cost of around £7.50/tonne this is equivalent to around £0.45 per tonne.

The Confederation understands that the technology for monitoring and regulating this dual fuel system exists and currently operates in France.

Restrictions on the use of 44 tonne trucks on parts of the Scottish rural road network:

What proportion of the rural access roads used by timber companies are affected by these restrictions?  Which areas are most seriously affected?  Has the Confederation attempted to estimate the additional transport costs that they incur as a result of these restrictions? 

A network of so called “Agreed Routes” for timber haulage now covers the road network in all the timber producing regions of Scotland.  In essence all timber production is restricted to some degree by these routes.  The Agreed Routes limit the road network that is available for timber haulage through a grading of public roads, classifying them as ‘Permissible’, ‘Consultation required’ through to ‘Excluded’.  The areas most constrained by restrictions are Dumfries and Galloway, Argyll and the Highlands. 

Given the complexity of allocating costs resulting from these restrictions, the determination of the additional cost resulting from these restrictions given here is indicative, not definitive.  Additional costs result from;

  • re-routing, with longer hauls require
  • longer in-forest haulage (in-forest haulage costs more per mile than hauls on the public road given the quality of the running surface)
  • changes in operational practice.

Leaving aside the management time required in consultation between industry and councils operational impacts have been significant.  For example, a negotiated agreement between industry and council may require a 2 – 3 hour interval between consecutive trucks using a certain length of road.  This means that dedicated crane wagons have to be used instead of the more efficient system of flatbeds loaded by independent cranes.  This adds a significant cost to the process, and increases the number of lorry journeys required (as self loading lorries carry a lower load than flatbeds).  In effect more crane wagons are on the road than need to be because they are required to service a limited number of jobs with restricted access.  Consultation routes may also require that the industry contributes to traffic calming/ control measures.

Consistently across the industry figures of an additional £0.50/tonne to £1.00/tonne resulting from specific restrictions are reported.  In a western region of the country, a management company reports that from a productive area of approximately 55,000 tonnes harvested last year, the extraction of some 20,000 tonnes entailed significant transport difficulties on the public road.

In aggregate across all loads we estimate an additional cost from these restrictions of £0.25/tonne, equivalent to £1.25 million per year on a 6 million tonne annual Scottish production.  This figure excludes the economic cost of timber that it is uneconomic to harvest – see question 4 below.

Uneconomic extraction of timber because of high transport costs:

 Are there many areas in Scotland where, at present, it is uneconomic to exploit timber resources because of high transport costs?

There are significant areas where this is the case, and acutely in the west and north of the country.  A definitive quantification is not possible without extensive research.  The basis of the problem and an illustration of its significance, and consequent impact on the Scottish economy is given.

Uneconomic exploitation occurs when the sum of the costs exceeds the value.  A harvest will generate several different timber products and this product mix and individual values of components of the mix will determine of the harvest is economically feasible.  Whether or not, a harvest is economically feasible depends on factors including:

•           Harvesting cost – influenced by tree size, terrain, and extraction distance.

•           Product mix – influenced by tree size and quality.

•           Product Value (Delivered) – influenced by market conditions.

•           Haulage cost – influenced by distance, lorry type, and road condition.

•           Management cost (minor component).

In respect of costs, the haulage cost is the most variable and has the greatest effect on those areas that are furthest from the market.  In Scotland, due to the majority of markets being located in the east and south of the Country, the effects are most prevalent in the West and North Highlands respectively.

Given the complexity of the interacting factors, practicably, it is not however possible to put a precise figure on the current area that it is uneconomic to exploit.  To provide an indicative figure of the scale of the problem 3 approaches are presented here:  analysis of costs and prices; illustrative experience from operational managers; comparison of forecast harvest with actual harvests.

Analysis of costs and prices

Looking at the net return of individual products within a sale, by taking an average value and assuming average harvesting and management costs, it is possible to calculate the haulage cost above which harvesting becomes uneconomic.  In the case of chipwood, the lowest value product, the breakpoint would be £7.00 /tonne.  This means that any chipwood which has a haulage cost to market of greater than £7.00/tonne will generate a loss to the grower.  Indicative haulage costs are a national average in the region of £7.50, and from Kintyre, for example, around £11.25/tonne.  On this basis, nationally, chipwood is on average uneconomic to harvest across Scotland and significantly uneconomic from much of Argyll.  More generally, in SW Scotland sites west of Newton Stewart are marginally uneconomic for harvesting.

Illustrative experience from operational manager

The Highland Timber Transport Group estimates that 1-2 million tonnes of timber in the Highlands cannot be harvested due to constraints on the public road network.  This estimate results from an identification of 67 pinch points unsuitable for timber traffic on the road network and the corresponding volume ‘landlocked’ by these points.

One forest management company operating in the west with responsibility for 7,000 ha of productive woodland estimate that there is currently no solution for accessing 2,500 ha – approximately 1/3 of their productive forest area.  On a national basis ConFor’s assessment is that this is towards the upper end of the experience of managers across the country, but also that it is not a-typical.

Comparison of forecast harvest with actual harvests

Forecasts of timber production are undertaken by the Forestry Commission.  These forecasts represent the best estimate available to the industry and have consistently represented a fair estimation of actual harvests.  As with any forecast they are based on both assumptions and sampling errors that are inherent in any data collection.

Comparison of forecast with actual harvests indicates that in Scotland over recent years around 1 million tonnes of available timber is not reaching the market annually – about 15% of the total annual harvest.

Development of an industry-based Freight Quality Partnership:

  • what obstacles had to be overcome by the Confederation to establish is own FQP?
  • what were the main objectives of the FQP?
  • what benefits has the FQP yielded?

 In the light of this experience, does the Confederation believe other industrial sectors could benefit from a similar initiative?

The Timber Transport Forum developed from a shared need to resolve confrontation between forest industry and roads authorities.

The predecessor to ConFor was one of the active parties that established the Timber Transport Forum together with COSLA and the Forestry Commission.  The Forum includes representation from the forest industry, local government, Forestry Commission, Scottish Executive and Scottish Enterprise.  Although its roots were in Scotland it now has a UK wide remit.  In addition, there is an active network of Regional Timber Transport Groups around Scotland that deal with regional operational issues.  The Forum provides a strategic focus for the work.  The overall objective is to keep the timber industry supplied and active within the constraints faced by local authorities, notably the roads budget.

The history of timber haulage prior to the establishment of the Forum was characterised by a distrust between local authorities and the industry with parties resorting to litigation. 

The Forum and Regional Groups have enabled partnership approaches to management to develop an improved understanding of the issues and constraints faced by the parties.  In addition, the Agree Routes Maps have provided an additional tool for managing the issues.

Whilst the Forum and Regional groups have been effective in ensuring active collaboration between the 2 parties, significant costs are still borne by the industry. 

The success of the Forum and Regional Groups has largely been down to the active engagement of individuals involved from across the stakeholder groups.  Financial support from the Forestry Commission, Scottish Enterprise and industry has also helped fund a project manager.  From the history of unproductive confrontation an awareness of the need to develop a mutual understanding based on dialogue and partnership developed.  A key driver for this was the understanding that other confrontational approaches had failed.  This format could be replicated in other industries where the forces pushing for change are similarly intense and the need for change is understood by the parties involved.

25 April (12th Meeting, Session 2 (2006)) Official Report

25 April (12th Meeting, 2006 (Session 2) – Written Evidence

submission from network rail


Network Rail’s responsibilities are to provide freight operators with a robust and reliable network with sufficient paths to meet their reasonable requirements in accordance with our licence conditions and the needs of their customers.


  • Operations, Maintenance and Renewals
  • Industry performance
  • Route Utilisation Strategies, including for freight.


  • Safety
  • Efficiency
  • Improving performance
  • Facilitating infrastructure enhancements

The Network in Scotland:

  • 2729 Route km
  • 634 Route km electrified (almost entirely in SPT area)
  • 345 Stations
  • 114 Freight /Terminals Yards
  • 4 passenger service providers and 4 freight service providers
  • Supporting over 2000 passenger services and 360 freight paths per day
  • Moving 70 million passengers and 10million tonnes of freight per annum
  • 6.25million tonnes of this is coal – a large proportion of this is for power stations in England

Route Utilisation Strategies – Efficient use and development of the network:

Network Rail is leading a programme of Route Utilisation Strategies (RUS) on behalf of the rail industry.  The RUS programme will recommend changes to achieve the most efficient use of the network, given the expected demands upon it, and identify opportunities for developments where gaps are identified.  The RUSs will:

  • Collate and set out existing network capacity, service provision and usage for both passenger and freight services
  • Trace recent demand change and forecast future change
  • Consider current operating performance
  • Consider Engineering Access requirements
  • Identify present and future problems and opportunities for change
  • Evaluate opportunities for change
  • Put forward for formal consultation those changes that offer the most value for money (and are affordable).

Two closely aligned RUSs will address Freight Issues in Scotland:  The GB Freight RUS and The Scotland RUS.

  • The Freight RUS will produce an agreed ten year forecast of freight demand and the routings preferred by our customers.  It will examine the capacity implications of the additional traffic and any associated implications for the capability of the network.  It will examine amongst other things the implications of the growth of freight flows that cross from Scotland to England.  This is particularly important for Anglo-Scottish coal flows.
  • The Scotland RUS will consider the requirements for capacity for freight in parallel with the capacity requirements implied by changing levels of passenger demand.  The Freight RUS will input closely into the Scotland RUS.
  • In spring 2006 we will issue The Scotland RUS for consultation.  The consultation Freight RUS will be issued in Autumn 2006.  
  • There will also be an ECML (see glossary) RUS which we are about to begin consulting on. We have also inherited the West Coast strategy and once complete in 2008 we intend to develop a West Coast RUS.
  • The RUSs will present appraised options for meeting the expected demands on the network taking account of the Scottish Planning Assessment and are expected to be a key input into the development of the Scottish Executive’s High Level Output Specification (HLOS) of what it may wish Network Rail to provide following its next Periodic Review.  The options may include options for infrastructure enhancement if they emerge from the appraisal work as being value for money.
  • In parallel with the RUS programme, Network Rail is currently discussing how it records physical characteristics of the network (‘capability’) and how it communicates changes to capability with its stakeholders (including the Office of Rail Regulation, The Scottish Executive and our Freight customers).  The workstream includes consideration of a few sections of the network where published capability differs from the actual capability, with the goal of ensuring that the two become aligned.

Freight Customers/Freight Operating Companies:

EWS – the largest of the freight operators, has around 85% (by volume) of the rail freight market in Scotland.  Main products are: coal, parcels, petroleum, containerised goods, consumables and timber.  EWS also run infrastructure services for Network Rail National Logistics Units.  EWS’ main yards are at Mossend (Central belt), Falkland (Ayrshire) and Millerhill (East).  They also have facilities at Aberdeen, Elgin, Montrose, Inverness, Perth, Thornton and Fort William.

Freightliner Intermodal - operate container services to/from Coatbridge Freightliner Terminal.  90% of the intermodal volume is either Just-in-Time for imports, or time specific for ships departing (ship catchers).  Freightliner’s Coatbridge facility currently operates four trains in each direction per day running to Crewe Basford Hall, Tilbury and Felixstowe.

Freightliner Heavy Haul - current markets in Scotland are coal and cement.  They have increased their market share of coal transportation and currently have services from Hunterston, New Cumnock, Killoch and Ravenstruther.  They also run the Lafarge cement traffic from Dunbar to Uddingston, Inverness, Aberdeen, Seaham and Carlisle.

Direct Rail Services - core contract is the transport of spent nuclear fuel between Torness/Hunterston to Sellafield.  DRS is expanding its Scottish operation and working in partnership with W H Malcolm Ltd providing container services from Daventry - Grangemouth - Mossend and from Grangemouth - Aberdeen -Elderslie including supermarket traffic.

GB Railfreight - currently run the Royal Mail traffic from Willesden to Shieldmuir.  They have also recently won a contract for mud oil between Aberdeen and Parkeston.


  • Rail freight’s market share is growing year on year and is expected to grow as the Working Time Directive takes effect on the economics of longer distance lorry journeys.
  • Circa 85% of rail freight lifted within Scotland is coal and other bulk commodities.  Coal is used to provide about a third of the UK’s electricity with generation predominately taking place in England.
  • Rail freight is a small, but growing section of the logistics industry.  Market share has increased by 3% in the 10 years since privatisation (from 8.5% to 11.5%). 
  • The fastest growing market sector on rail is containers from deepsea ports to inland destinations which require infrastructure that can accommodate 9’6” high boxes on flat wagons.  In railway terminology that needs W10 (see glossary) gauge capability which is restricted to the WCML (see glossary) in Scotland. 

Key Routes:

  • Of the 3 cross border routes, the WCML is the only route which has the capacity for W10 traffic. 
  • The ECML is W9 and G&SW (see glossary), with its large number of overbridges, is even more restrictive at W8 which means that the options for diverting services in times of disruption are limited.
  • The G&SW route is a crucial route for Anglo Scottish coal traffic.  The faster Class 4, Intermodal traffic remains on the W10 WCML.  This does however mean that should the West Coast Main Line be closed for any reason there is no diversionary route for the high gauge container traffic.
  • Weight is also a constraining factor in that not all of the routes in Scotland are capable of taking the heavier RA 10 trains (see glossary).  The RA of a specific route is restricted by both structure and track capability.  Most current passenger-only routes are less than RA5 and those routes which historically only saw a sprinter train service but now see limited mixed traffic are RA5.  Scotland has several significant structures, such as the Forth and Tay Bridges and Burnton Viaduct (on the Freight only Chalmerston branch) which restrict routes to RA 8 capability.

Busiest sections of the Network in Scotland based on last year’s Route Plans which can cause freight problems are:

Haymarket                                            Haymarket to Inverkeithing
Shields to Paisley                                  Holytown to Midcalder
Newton to Rutherglen                             Greenhill to Grangemouth
Haymarket to Polmont                            Larbert to Perth

  • These are all sections of the network where additional trains would be difficult to path.  There are also a considerable number of single line branches and sections with limited signalling where it would be difficult to find paths for additional trains even though the number of trains operating on the network is much lower.  These include Aberdeen to Inverness, Larbert to Stirling and a number of sections with limited signals.  It is important to balance the needs of passenger and freight growth within the capacity constraints of the network, (see section 2).

Network Issues:

Operational Issues:

  • Freight Terminals - excluding the privately owned Terminals, the majority of Terminals especially in Aberdeenshire, Far North and West Highland line are controlled by Freight Operating Companies; other FOCs are able to use these terminals under open access conditions in agreement with the controlling FOC.  Although, a number of terminals have good road access there are many with poor road access, which can cause difficulties with transhipment.
  • Time of Operation - Coal Planning restrictions mean that the majority of coal loading sites are restricted to loading between 07:00 and 19:00 from Monday to Friday and 07:00 to 13:00 on Saturday.
  • A growing area of the Intermodal market is Supermarket goods which are reliant on a fast, efficient and reliable service.  This service usually departs from the Supermarket distribution centres at night with an early morning arrival time for distribution onto the Supermarket shelves.  Generally, Network Rail maintains the network during the night.  This growing market is therefore reliant on a reduction in maintenance time, which, as tonnage on the network increases, presents a challenge for the Rail Industry.

General Capability and Capacity Issues:

  • Length Capability – constraints on certain sections of the railway network.  Certain routes are constrained by lengths of loops so longer running trains which improve resource and capacity utilisation may impact adversely on network performance.
  • Weight Capability – there are certain routes where gradient precludes heavy weight traffic.
  • Route Capacity - freight traffic is constrained on certain routes which are operating at capacity.  Pinchpoints within Scotland include routes with long block sections (such as the G&SW) and on single lines (such as the line between Barrhead and Kilmarnock).
  • Route Gauge Clearance – the Intermodal market needs a railway capable of clearance for 9 ft 6 containers.  Many parts of the network are currently constrained by insufficient clearance of overbridges.

Anglo Scottish Coal:

  • With the current emissions directives, Power Stations which do not have emissions controls fitted require to burn low sulphur coal.  This necessitates the use of imported coal or Scottish mined coal which is low in sulphur (either used on its own or blended with the higher sulphur English coal).
  • Network Rail is working with our customers to ensure that coal is moved by the most economical route in terms of journey time and resources utilised. 
  • In the short term, further capacity on the G&SW is being provided by opening the route 24 hrs Monday to Saturday with maintenance of the network being constrained to weekend nights.  Longer term, various infrastructure enhancement projects are being researched to ascertain whether there is a cost effective business case to provide further capacity through creation of additional infrastructure.
  • Benefits from directing coal traffic to the G&SW are likely to include improvements in performance and capacity available on both the WCML and ECML.

Passenger and Freight:

  • Freight and passenger traffic both require access to the same rail network.  Both require a robust and reliable Network and consistency of delivery.  However, whilst the Passenger TOCs require the same product on a daily basis, freight customers have a more varied day to day demand for use of the network and require Network Rail to react quickly to new business or to situations when Customers’ requirements change (e.g. require more product or less due to plant breakdowns; or new commercial opportunities arise at short notice).
  • Growth in railfreight has to be attained whilst ensuring there is no adverse performance impact from the new traffic on the existing Network users.  Network Rail works closely with our customers to ensure that any performance risk is identified and mitigation plans implemented.
  • On routes where our Freight customers are the main user and passenger services are heavily under utilised there may be future opportunities to increase capacity through revision of the timetable for these routes.

Freight Facilities:

  • There are currently 30 freight terminals in Scotland owned or leased by Freight Operating Companies and a further 84 privately owned terminals directly connected to the railway network (only 44% of these privately owned terminals currently see traffic). 
  • Network Rail also own terminals throughout Scotland however the majority of these facilities are not immediately suitable for commercial freight traffic.  Issues include restrictive internal facilities, operational restrictions or lack of road access.

Key Developments Under Consideration:

  • G&SW - Network Rail is currently investigating various enhancement options to improve capacity predominately for Anglo Scottish coal including track and signalling works.
  • Stirling/Alloa/Kincardine - Re-opening of approx 13miles of closed railway between Stirling and Kincardine, providing a new passenger service between Stirling and Alloa and allowing freight services (mainly coal to Longannet power station) to use the new route to by-pass the Forth Bridge.
  • Hunterston deep-water container terminal - Hunterston deepwater port has one of the deepest sea entrance channels in Northern Europe.  It is capable of accommodating the largest vessels.  Apart from continuing in its existing role as a bulk terminal there is a proposal for a £200m international deep-water container terminal at Hunterston.
  • Mossend / Aberdeen / Elgin Freight Gauge enhancement
  • Aberdeen Raith’s Farm
  • Earl’s Seat Coal Terminal Connection
  • Inverness J G Russell Intermodal Terminal
  • Tillyflats – Grangemouth Freight Terminal Connection
  • Auchinleck – Powharnal Re-opening for Scottish Coal
  • Barrhill Timber Terminal


The Load Gauge is the profile for a particular rail route within which all vehicles or loads must remain to ensure that sufficient clearance is available at all structures.  This is expressed as a series of increasing gauges between W6 (minimum gauge in GB) and W10 which permits Euro standard boxes (9 ft 6 in height) on conventional wagons (1m high).

The system which determines which types of locomotive and rolling stock can travel over any particular route.  The main criteria for establishing RA usually concerns the strength of underline bridges and embankments in relation to axle loads and speed.  A locomotive of RA8 is not permitted on a route of RA6 for example.  (Freight route map provided to Committee on CD-Rom)

The West Coast main Line connecting Glasgow and Edinburgh with London via the North West of England the West Midlands

The Glasgow and South Western route connecting Glasgow and Ayr to Carlisle via Kilmarnock and Dumfries

The East Coast main Line connecting Edinburgh to London via Newcastle and York

supplementary evidence from transport scotland


On 1 March 2006 the Minister for Transport acknowledged that an independent study commissioned by the Scottish Executive had confirmed Forth Estuary Transport Authority’s (FETA) concerns about cable corrosion on the Forth Road Bridge.  FETA is now progressing with work which may slow the rate of cable corrosion or halt, it completely, however, the results of this work may not become apparent for a number of years.  It is also considering the feasibility of replacing or augmenting the existing cables.  Depending on the effectiveness of these protective measures it may still be necessary to provide a replacement crossing at some time after 2013 in order to protect cross Forth travel.

Due to the significant planning and construction time required if an infrastructure project of this size becomes necessary preparatory work has commenced on a possible replacement crossing.  This work does not commit us to constructing a new crossing, however, it does mean that time will not be lost in the future with preparatory work if the crossing needs to be replaced. 

Current Status
Transport Scotland has recently commenced work on a Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR) to consider, plan and prioritise strategic transport infrastructure investment beyond our current committed projects.  Such projects will be required to deliver the emerging National Transport Strategy.  The Review will ensure that Scotland has the programmed transport infrastructure needed to support Scotland’s growing economy.  It will also assess the strategic environmental impacts of proposals to ensure these are consistent with government policies and commitments.  A replacement Forth crossing will be considered as part of this Review. 

Work Packages
Work on a replacement Forth Crossing will be a fast-tracked element of the STPR.  This work will identify the scope, form and function of a potential replacement crossing over the Forth Estuary.  Although the findings of the STPR are not expected until the summer 2008, it is planned that the Forth replacement crossing work will be reporting in summer 2007.  The timetable we are working to is as follows:

Issue of Tender Documents - 2 June 2006    
Award of Commission - 17 July 2006   
Commencement of Services - 24 July 2006   
Interim Report on Forth Replacement Crossing - 23 July 2007   
Submission of Final STPR Report - 21 July 2008   

An outline of the programmed work will include assessment of the performance of the existing Forth crossing facilities; identification of the future requirements for crossing the Forth; identification of shortfalls in the network delivery; identification of candidate proposals for filling the gaps; two stage sifting and appraisal of candidate schemes and preparation of a final report with recommendations.

9 May (13th Meeting, Session 2 (2006)) Official Report

9 May (13th Meeting, 2006 (Session 2)) – Written Evidence

submission from society of chief officers of transportation in scotland

The main theme underlying SCOTS view of Freight Transport is that the ability of freight transport to support the competitiveness of the Scottish economy is of paramount importance.

There is a change in the emphasis of transport in the Scottish economy, away from manufacturing, and towards ‘intellectual’ business, - producing products that can consist almost entirely of knowledge.  However absolute freight volumes still appear to be rising, but not in line with the growth of the economy.

To support the competitiveness of the Scottish economy as far as freight is concerned, road transport will continue to be by far the dominant mode, with no real alternative being available for the vast majority of movements.

Freight transport is a small, - albeit highly visible, percentage of road traffic, but road congestion is very much a consequence of single-occupancy car travel and especially car commuting at peak periods.

There is a general road maintenance issue, but it is a separate issue, not so much related to heavy truck transport as to traffic as a whole.  There is no strong evidence that modern trucks have a particularly severe effect on road condition, and there are increasing indications that loads in trucks are tending to become bulkier but less dense, and thus less inclined to produce high axle weights.

The idea of modal shift from road to rail or short sea shipping is entirely laudable but, much of the current rail infrastructure lacks the capacity, gauge clearances and structural strength to be able to handle substantially more freight without seriously hampering passenger train service development.  For a comment on short sea shipping see paragraphs 10 and 20.

In tackling congestion and carbon emissions it seems evident that Scotland’s railways can be much more effective in reducing car use than in reducing truck use.  Their ability to move people to the business heart of the main cities is a principal strength in that role, but frequency, capacity and journey speed improvements will be central to maximising their ability to cut car travel into city centres.  Those demands run counter to a desire to increase rail freight traffic.

There also appear to be very limited opportunities to move goods in the volumes, and with the absence of ‘just-in-time’ sensitivities, that would accord with the efficient use of rail freight.  However where rail freight can make a positive contribution, it should of course be encouraged, as should shipping alternatives.

It looks particularly likely that rail freight could make a significant contribution to the Highland economy, because the distances involved and the types of traffic, (for example timber), are more conducive to the characteristics of rail freight.  However much of the Highland rail network would need investment to make it suitable for freight transport.  Passing loops on single-track lines would appear to be important if freight is not to hamper passenger services.

The failure, thus far, to maximise the potential of short sea shipping has much to do with the absence of easily available and comprehensive information about ship space availability and freight rates.  North Sea Commission studies of short sea shipping, around the North Sea coast as a whole, have tended to show that the protection of commercial confidentiality by private ports and shipping agents results in potential customers finding it very hard to identify what shipping options and times are available and at what prices.

Some of the vulnerabilities of the Scottish economy relate to freight movements outside Scotland’s borders.  Road and rail haulage times to Europe are hampered by congestion in England as well as Scotland, and the reliable movement of shipping containers to the main worldwide container terminals is understood to be important.  Thus the Scottish Parliament needs to remain vigilant on the implications for the Scottish economy of congestion in England.

As far as global sea transport is concerned the move towards exceptionally large ‘Post-Panamax’ container ships may present Scotland with an opportunity.  Because these ships are too large for most of the existing container ports, either in terms of physical dimensions, or in terms of the impact that their huge container loads would have on the landward infrastructure of the port, the concept is emerging of terminals for Post-Panamax container movement being created at a small number of ‘offshore’ locations throughout the World, (e.g. one to serve North Western Europe) at which transhipments would be made to/from smaller break-bulk container ships that would then serve conventional container ports.  As the Committee will be aware, such a possibility exists at Scapa Flow where a remote deep-water terminal would be well placed to serve not only the whole North Sea and Baltic, but also the potentially important future traffic flows along the Norwegian Coast to the Narvik railhead and to Northern Russia.  In terms of worldwide shipping -following Great Circular Routes, the longer journey to Scapa Flow is of little or no consequence in either mileage or time, especially given that it would avoid the hazards facing such very large ships in the constricted waters of the English Channel or the North Sea.

There does not appear to be a large opportunity to increase airfreight in Scotland.  Regional air services in modest sized aircraft normally operate at their structural weight limit.  Thus any freight carried typically has to be traded off against the weight of passengers when the aircraft is full, - and the profitability of passenger services is mainly derived from peak periods when aircraft are very busy.  On a weight-for-weight basis passengers produce better revenue than most freight, so relatively little domestic/near-continent air freight gets carried, unless of very high value/time sensitivity.

Transatlantic and global air-freight is important to the Scottish economy but it is dependent on load consolidation at international airports which have a lot of long haul services.  The documentation and forwarding skills involved are also very specialised.  Actual transport is in long-haul jumbo aircraft, either in the bellyhold containers of passenger aircraft, or in dedicated freighters.  Prestwick does achieve a useful level of air freight activity, some of which is believed to be related to IBM at Greenock, but it does not appear likely that Scotland can achieve a sufficient range of long haul destinations to remove its fundamental dependence on moving global air freight by road to/from major international airports in the South of England.

Comments on Measures that Might Assist Freight Transport:

60 Tonne/25 metre trucks
SCOTS feels that the ‘jury is still out’ on this issue, but is in no doubt that there would be substantial implications for bridges, especially on local roads.  There would also be real problems associated with the use of these vehicles in urban areas, and on many single carriageway main roads where difficulty in passing them would raise safety issues.

The 40mph speed limit on single carriageway roads
SCOTS feels that the technology of truck design and construction is now such that there is probably no longer a case for restricting trucks to 40mph on single carriageway roads, as opposed to perhaps a 50mph limit.

SCOTS view is that predictability of journey time is probably more important to freight hauliers than the issue of speed.  Thus investment in management measures to smooth out traffic flows along entire national arteries is liable to be more useful than higher capacity roads or the bypassing of hot-spots.  If all that each bypass/new length of road does is to allow faster arrival at the next congestion point along the route, then it has achieved very little.  Management measures have the merit of controlling demand, whereas new fast roads and by-passes are very much inclined to stimulate demand.

Fuel Cost Disparities
While it is a political issue, it is evident that a healthy haulage industry in Scotland depends on having a reasonably level playing field with its continental competitors.  Evidently that is not the case at the moment in terms of either truck taxation or diesel fuel costs.

The rail network needs very substantial investment over a long period, particularly to rectify its shortage of capacity, but also to rectify gauge and structural strength issues if and where these handicap traffic development. 

Continental Ferries
The Committee’s attention is drawn to the submission from Michelin plc, which looks like a particularly good example of the Rosyth Ferry initiative having produced a benefit to a major Scottish manufacturing plant that suffers a transport disadvantage, - and then having that facility placed under threat by the absence of sufficient support from other Scottish freight hauliers.  It is important that the Rosyth Ferry not only continues and succeeds, but that other similar facilities are encouraged.  In that context the Committee will note Michelin’s interest in freight transport to Scandinavia.

annexe C:  list of other written evidence

Copies of the written evidence received by the Committee can be found on the Scottish Parliament website ( or can be provided, on request, from the Clerk to the Committee.

AEA Technology Rail
AJG Parcels Ltd
Angus Agencies (1997) Ltd
ARR Craib Transport Ltd
British Airways plc
British Ports Association
British Ports Association Supplementary Evidence
CBI Scotland
Confederation of Forest Industries
Crown Timber plc
Cullen Building Products Ltd
D Thompson and Son Ltd
Duncan Adams Ltd
First Scotrail
Freight Transport Association
Friends of the Far North Line
Fyfe Glenrock
Galt Transport Ltd
Glenhire Express Ltd
Gordon Bell Norbord Ltd
Gundry, Sarah (Freight Haulage)
Hebrides Haulage Ltd
Highlands and Islands Enterprise
Highland Council
Highland Rail Partnership
James Jones and Sons Ltd
John G Russell (Transport) Ltd
MacQueen Haulage
MRS Distribution
Network Rail
Network Rail Scotland Route Capability Maps
Nisbet of Kirknewton Ltd
Office of Rail Regulation
RA Howie (Sauchen) Ltd
Rail Freight Group
Road Haulage Association
Sandy Bruce Trucking Aberdeen
Scottish Council for Development and Industry
Skills for Logistics
Tesco plc
The Scottish Region of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK)
Tom Hart
Transport Research Institute
Veitch Brothers Limited
Wallets Mart Castle Douglas Ltd

supplementary list of other written evidence

Freight on Rail and Transform Scotland Joint Submission
Freight on Rail
Freight on Rail Additional Submission
Freight on Rail Supplementary Evidence
Inverness Harbour Trust
Michelin Tyre plc
Renfrewshire Council
Stirling Council
Traffic Commissioner
West Lothian Council

1 Round timber here refers to logs, i.e. timber taken from the forest to the processor (e.g. sawmill), the transport of which has different characteristics to general haulage.  The distinction is used to differentiate from the movement of processed timber (e.g. sawn planks) which are hauled from the processor and which is more akin to general haulage.

  Volume 1 Contents