Government asked to support Scottish terminal

Coatbridge freight terminal from the air

The Scottish government has been asked if it will pledge support from a special development fund to reduce fears of closure at the modern freight terminal in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire. The facility handles five daily intermodal flows inhouse, three return services for another operator, and employs around one hundred personnel.

Fears have been expressed over the future of a sophisticated intermodal facility at Coatbridge in the Scottish Central Belt, the heavily populated region that encompasses Glasgow and Edinburgh, two of the UK’s largest cities. The concerns come from Elaine Smith, a native of the town and a Labour Party Member of the Scottish Parliament, representing the area.

Questions to First Minister

Smith, who is also the convener of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) parliamentary group, brought the matter to the attention of the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish Government, in a parliamentary question. “I understand from the union that the Freightliner freight terminal in Coatbridge is currently under threat of closure”, she said. “Will the First Minister advise whether the rail freight fund, which was announced by the Scottish Government just last year at the Coatbridge terminal, can be used to safeguard its future and the 100 jobs that may be affected?”

Elaine Smith is the Member of the Scottish Parliament who brought the concerns for the Coatbridge terminal to the Government

The fund to which Smith referred is a GBP25m (euro 29.5m) pot, set aside for projects that meet modal shift criteria. It was announced last May by the Scottish transport secretary Michael Matheson, and widely approved by the industry. The First Minister replied that she would be very happy to look into the specifics of that suggestion and revert to her parliamentary colleague with a detailed answer. “We would certainly want to do everything that we can to help secure the terminal’s future, and if the fund is available we would want to make sure that it is used”. 

Union concerns

Mick Cash, the general secretary of RMT union sought a quick response. “Freightliner Ltd and the Scottish Government must take urgent action and find a way forward to secure the future of Coatbridge rail freight terminal and the dozens of jobs that are under threat”.

When interviewed by, a Freightliner spokesperson gave their assurances to staff, union and customers that they were working for a positive outcome. “Following changes in the market and competitive backdrop, Freightliner management has been in discussion with the employees at our Coatbridge terminal and the RMT Union, to explain the challenges facing us at the Coatbridge site. We are making every effort to enhance the current service offerings to our customers and are examining all avenues to make Coatbridge a viable terminal into the future”.

A Freightliner container train from Wentloog near Cardiff to Southampton. Photo credit: Geof Sheppard
The terminal at Coatbridge is wired for electric traction, like this facility in Oxfordshire

Mick Cash added that the RMT union were are ready to work with the Scottish Government and Freightliner Ltd. He said they wanted “ to ensure that this vital rail freight terminal has a bright future and Scotland does not take a backwards step on rail freight.”

Given that the Scottish government had chosen the terminal as the location to launch its freight fund, the First Minister asked Smith to allow her further investigation. “I want to have the opportunity to look into the matter and come back to the member properly”, she said.

Meanwhile, operations continue as normal, with the terminal handling road and rail movements smoothly.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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