Joy over Scottish freight terminal watered down by criticism
There was much fanfare over the long-awaited and much-celebrated opening of the freight terminal at Highland Spring, the water bottling plant in rural Scotland. However, the facility has had some even colder water poured on it. Political rivals claim the terminal’s environmental credentials are tainted by the nature of the business it supports and has questioned the public money spent on supporting the development.
Highland Spring, an iconic Scottish brand of mineral water, has finally opened its rail freight terminal adjacent to their bottling plant and headquarters in Blackford, Stirlingshire in Scotland. However, questions have been raised, saying that the 4.5 million pounds (5 million euros) of public money spent on financing the project should not have been allocated to an industry that is, according to independent sources, thousands of times more polluting than tap water. Supporters have rallied to the project, pointing out the significant advantages of the terminal and rail freight in general.
Money down the drain?
Scottish government officials, including the First Minister, attended the recent opening of the Highland Spring rail freight terminal in Stirlingshire, Scotland. The modest two sidings, directly off the main line between Stirling and Perth, serve the bottling plant of Highland Spring, a globally recognised mineral water brand and a high-value Scottish export. However, the cost and the environmental impact have been challenged by political rivals in the Scottish parliament.
Opposition voices from the Socialist Labour Party have been reported as criticising the entire mineral water industry as an unnecessary pollutant. Neil Bibby, an elected member in the west of Scotland, not representing the constituency in which the Highland Spring bottling plant resides, told media in Scotland that while he agreed that it was important to encourage modal shift to rail, the burden of providing the facilities should not fall on the taxpayer. He also criticised the funding of the development, which he claims benefits a large company making substantial profits. Highland Spring is ultimately owned as part of a portfolio of investments by Emirati businessman Mahdi Al-Tajir.
Short-term criticism answered by sustained benefits
Criticism of the bottled water industry mainly revolves around plastic packaging and distribution. Highland Spring has, for several years, been investing in traditional glass and recyclable plastics and points out that its bottling plant is directly adjacent to the source water it extracts under closely controlled and monitored conditions. Their rail freight terminal is the latest effort in reducing their environmental footprint to come onstream.
The culmination of the rail freight terminal had been put in doubt by the pandemic. A significant downturn in the industry, particularly in the ‘food service’ stream, to corporate users such as the hospitality industry, has been slow to recover. Volumes moved from the plant are consequently not as great as forecast. That has meant a reduction in road truck movements at the plant, the primary reason for the rail terminal in the first place. However, despite awaiting its first rail dispatch, the company is confident of the long-term viability of the terminal and of it fully replaying the investment made in terms of secured employment and benefit to the neighbouring community.
**UK businesses can soon share their stories in a full-colour digital magazine tailored to the UK rail industry. The RailFreight UK Christmas Special will be published on 15 December. Details, including how to take part, can be found here.
Do you want to read the full article?
Thank you for visiting RailFreight.com. Become a member of RailFreight Premium and get full access to all our premium content.
Are you already a member?
Do you have a free account? With a free account, you had access to read all premium content on RailFreight.com for free until 1 May 2023. From 1 May onwards you need a paid membership to read all premium articles. Questions? Call +31(0)10 280 1000 or see the FAQ.