Portrait of Jenny Gilruth the Scottish transport secretary

Scottish rail needs to be decarbonised by 2035, also in remote areas

Jenny Gilruth the Scottish transport secretary Image by RIA from press release

The Scottish government is following an aggressive policy of decarbonisation, and plans to make Scotland’s economy net-zero by 2045, five years ahead of the UK ambition for the same target. And thus, rail needs to be decarbonised too, was one of the main messages at the recent annual conference of the Scottish National Party, who hold power in Edinburgh in a coalition with the Green Party in Scotland.
Jenny Gilruth, the Scottish government politician who was appointed as the Minister for Transport in January, addressed the industry on the occasion.She has the daunting task of bringing the publicly owned railways in Scotland to the decarbonisation target by 2035. That seems a hard target, given that a high proportion of Scotland’s route miles are in challenging and remote terrain. However, Gilruth has inherited a rolling programme of electrification, and a supporting programme of alternative fuel implementation.

Progressive attitude to rail freight

Scotland also has a progressive attitude to rail freight, according to the government’s Transport Scotland, the civil agency that informs and implements policy decisions. At a recent Rail Freight Group meeting, their director of rail, Bill Reeve, noted that to meet Scotland’s net-zero targets, a further thirty or forty daily intermodal workings were required. Gilruth backed that up by telling her audience that there is a need to develop strong railway infrastructure in Scotland, providing sustainable transport for people and freight, as well as supporting highly skilled jobs. She envisaged rail playing a leading role in supporting the Scottish government goal of achieving Net Zero by 2045.

In collaboration with Scottish departments, the infrastructure agency for the whole of Britain, Network Rail, has been engaged in a programme of enhancements, including high profile work around Aberdeen to improve capacity, and on the pivotal Carstairs Junction, which will help accommodate greater freight capacity and the inauguration of Anglo-Scottish HS2 services to Glasgow and Edinburgh. Gilruth also has first-hand experience of enhancement to the Scottish network, with the much-publicised Levenmouth Project on the edge of her constituency of Mid-Fife and Glenrothes.

Private freight developments in Scotland

The Scottish government is promoting a variation on the Westminster concept of freeport, intended to make sustainable net-zero policy a key element of any development. Among the five bidding consortia, are two sponsored by interests around the Clyde and the Forth rivers, both of whom have rail freight at their disposal. In the west of Scotland, a consortium called Clyde Green Freeport boasts the largest private freight developments in Scotland – Mossend International Railfreight Park, at a convenient location just off the West Coast Main Line.

Container train departs the Highland Spring bottling plant in the Stirlingshire countryside
An intermodal train departs the Highland Spring bottling plant in the Stirlingshire countryside (John Cumming)

In contrast, the Forth Green Freeport bid, led by Forth Ports, who are already active in the Thames Freeport near London, have a compelling bid which encompasses facilities on both banks of the river – including Rosyth in Fife – where it has not escaped attention that Gilruth has her roots. It is also noted that the Forth Green Freeport would embrace Leith Docks in Edinburgh, where an extensive, if moribund, rail network exists, and where the ambitious residential, retail and commercial Edinburgh Waterfront development (Also backed by Forth Ports) is stalled for lack of investment.

Politically enticing regeneration

A number of interests would also like Gilruth to look at expanding the Scottish rail network, with the added benefit of providing enhanced capacity on existing routes for freight, and opening up new markets, with the politically enticing benefit of economic regeneration. Among them is the lobby for an improved Highland Main Line between Perth adn Inverness. The largely single track line, over one hundred miles ling (160 km) is severely constrained by lack of capacity, and suffers the ignominy of seeing the parallel road being expensively upgraded to ‘dual-carriageway’ standard.

Politicians show off transport document on the steps of Holyrood Parliament building
Jenny Gilruth is flanked by parliamentary colleagues at the launch of the latest transport policy document

Campaigning groups would also like Gilruth to look at projects which would dwarf the Levenmouth branch line, which is on the minister’s constituency doorstep. Among them, and building on the enhancements around Aberdeen, a group seeks the reinstatement of rail services into the ports of Peterhead and Fraserburgh – two modest towns with mainly fishing and agricultural heritage. There is also a Green Freeport bid in the area, backed by the Harbour Authority in Aberdeen, where there are ambitions to expand operations, and build new rail freight handling capability.

Ambitions to expand

Further south the established Campaign for Borders Rail seeks a full reinstatement of the direct route between Edinburgh, the Scottish Borders and Carlisle. They point to the extensive timber operations in the region, which could be served by rail. They point to the successful trials of timber trains int eh Far North of Scotland. They also note the growth of express logistics and say that existing passenger train paths could be utilised for mixed traffic (passenger trains with space for parcels cargo).

Light logistics just might be the solution for which Gilruth and her parliamentary colleagues have been looking. The recently established Varamis Rail is running services into Mossend, with ambitions to expand into city centres, with zero-emissions ‘last mile’ delivery. Network Rail has also surveyed the possibilities of using out of hours capacity at Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley passenger stations for logistics purposes.

The event, at which Gilruth spoke was organised by the Rail Industry Assocaition Scotland and the High Speed Rail Group, which represents industry with experience of the sector.

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Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

1 comment op “Scottish rail needs to be decarbonised by 2035, also in remote areas”

bönström bönström|13.12.22|14:40

Neither core clients of railways, nor any client, now afford luxury of not caring about “eta”.
As robustness (resiliency and redundancy) is short at railways, otherwise, the by far safest and most energy effective mode, now these, devastating bottlenecks, of railways have to be attended.
All sub optimal technicalities, decisively have to be outed!
Electrification, yes, but an optimal!
All other devices, those not “cemented”, but resilient, they upgrade for higher loads – and lower costs, etc…

Add your comment

characters remaining.

Log in through one of the following social media partners to comment.

Scottish rail needs to be decarbonised by 2035, also in remote areas | RailFreight.com
Portrait of Jenny Gilruth the Scottish transport secretary

Scottish rail needs to be decarbonised by 2035, also in remote areas

Jenny Gilruth the Scottish transport secretary Image by RIA from press release

The Scottish government is following an aggressive policy of decarbonisation, and plans to make Scotland’s economy net-zero by 2045, five years ahead of the UK ambition for the same target. And thus, rail needs to be decarbonised too, was one of the main messages at the recent annual conference of the Scottish National Party, who hold power in Edinburgh in a coalition with the Green Party in Scotland.
Jenny Gilruth, the Scottish government politician who was appointed as the Minister for Transport in January, addressed the industry on the occasion.She has the daunting task of bringing the publicly owned railways in Scotland to the decarbonisation target by 2035. That seems a hard target, given that a high proportion of Scotland’s route miles are in challenging and remote terrain. However, Gilruth has inherited a rolling programme of electrification, and a supporting programme of alternative fuel implementation.

Progressive attitude to rail freight

Scotland also has a progressive attitude to rail freight, according to the government’s Transport Scotland, the civil agency that informs and implements policy decisions. At a recent Rail Freight Group meeting, their director of rail, Bill Reeve, noted that to meet Scotland’s net-zero targets, a further thirty or forty daily intermodal workings were required. Gilruth backed that up by telling her audience that there is a need to develop strong railway infrastructure in Scotland, providing sustainable transport for people and freight, as well as supporting highly skilled jobs. She envisaged rail playing a leading role in supporting the Scottish government goal of achieving Net Zero by 2045.

In collaboration with Scottish departments, the infrastructure agency for the whole of Britain, Network Rail, has been engaged in a programme of enhancements, including high profile work around Aberdeen to improve capacity, and on the pivotal Carstairs Junction, which will help accommodate greater freight capacity and the inauguration of Anglo-Scottish HS2 services to Glasgow and Edinburgh. Gilruth also has first-hand experience of enhancement to the Scottish network, with the much-publicised Levenmouth Project on the edge of her constituency of Mid-Fife and Glenrothes.

Private freight developments in Scotland

The Scottish government is promoting a variation on the Westminster concept of freeport, intended to make sustainable net-zero policy a key element of any development. Among the five bidding consortia, are two sponsored by interests around the Clyde and the Forth rivers, both of whom have rail freight at their disposal. In the west of Scotland, a consortium called Clyde Green Freeport boasts the largest private freight developments in Scotland – Mossend International Railfreight Park, at a convenient location just off the West Coast Main Line.

Container train departs the Highland Spring bottling plant in the Stirlingshire countryside
An intermodal train departs the Highland Spring bottling plant in the Stirlingshire countryside (John Cumming)

In contrast, the Forth Green Freeport bid, led by Forth Ports, who are already active in the Thames Freeport near London, have a compelling bid which encompasses facilities on both banks of the river – including Rosyth in Fife – where it has not escaped attention that Gilruth has her roots. It is also noted that the Forth Green Freeport would embrace Leith Docks in Edinburgh, where an extensive, if moribund, rail network exists, and where the ambitious residential, retail and commercial Edinburgh Waterfront development (Also backed by Forth Ports) is stalled for lack of investment.

Politically enticing regeneration

A number of interests would also like Gilruth to look at expanding the Scottish rail network, with the added benefit of providing enhanced capacity on existing routes for freight, and opening up new markets, with the politically enticing benefit of economic regeneration. Among them is the lobby for an improved Highland Main Line between Perth adn Inverness. The largely single track line, over one hundred miles ling (160 km) is severely constrained by lack of capacity, and suffers the ignominy of seeing the parallel road being expensively upgraded to ‘dual-carriageway’ standard.

Politicians show off transport document on the steps of Holyrood Parliament building
Jenny Gilruth is flanked by parliamentary colleagues at the launch of the latest transport policy document

Campaigning groups would also like Gilruth to look at projects which would dwarf the Levenmouth branch line, which is on the minister’s constituency doorstep. Among them, and building on the enhancements around Aberdeen, a group seeks the reinstatement of rail services into the ports of Peterhead and Fraserburgh – two modest towns with mainly fishing and agricultural heritage. There is also a Green Freeport bid in the area, backed by the Harbour Authority in Aberdeen, where there are ambitions to expand operations, and build new rail freight handling capability.

Ambitions to expand

Further south the established Campaign for Borders Rail seeks a full reinstatement of the direct route between Edinburgh, the Scottish Borders and Carlisle. They point to the extensive timber operations in the region, which could be served by rail. They point to the successful trials of timber trains int eh Far North of Scotland. They also note the growth of express logistics and say that existing passenger train paths could be utilised for mixed traffic (passenger trains with space for parcels cargo).

Light logistics just might be the solution for which Gilruth and her parliamentary colleagues have been looking. The recently established Varamis Rail is running services into Mossend, with ambitions to expand into city centres, with zero-emissions ‘last mile’ delivery. Network Rail has also surveyed the possibilities of using out of hours capacity at Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley passenger stations for logistics purposes.

The event, at which Gilruth spoke was organised by the Rail Industry Assocaition Scotland and the High Speed Rail Group, which represents industry with experience of the sector.

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Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

1 comment op “Scottish rail needs to be decarbonised by 2035, also in remote areas”

bönström bönström|13.12.22|14:40

Neither core clients of railways, nor any client, now afford luxury of not caring about “eta”.
As robustness (resiliency and redundancy) is short at railways, otherwise, the by far safest and most energy effective mode, now these, devastating bottlenecks, of railways have to be attended.
All sub optimal technicalities, decisively have to be outed!
Electrification, yes, but an optimal!
All other devices, those not “cemented”, but resilient, they upgrade for higher loads – and lower costs, etc…

Add your comment

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