Rail freight at the heart of Forth Green Freeport bid in Scotland
An ambitious plan connecting several harbours in the River Forth, including the naval base at Rosyth, has been unveiled as the foundation of a ‘green’ freeport bid. A key element of the bid is the establishment of a new rail freight terminal within the green freeport. The east of Scotland has been largely overlooked by the growth in rail freight, particularly intermodal traffic, of which the new terminal would undoubtedly have significant handling potential.
Industry partners Babcock International, Forth Ports Group and Scarborough Muir Group have outlined their vision for what they call an internationally renowned port, shipbuilding, manufacturing and logistics cluster at Rosyth. The port development would form the basis of a ‘green freeport’ bid, set out within the parameters defined by the Scottish Government in Edinburgh. In addition to the proposed new rail freight terminal, the partners envisage the site becoming a centre for offshore renewable manufacturing and green power generating capacity.
Forecast significant additional rail freight
The proposal for a new rail freight terminal will certainly catch the eye of the government in Edinburgh. The fact that the complex would be on the doorstep of the parliament cannot be overlooked either. With rail development underway at nearby Levenmouth, and the potential to reactivate a line between Rosyth and Alloa, which has been largely unused since the closure of the Longannet power station, there are plenty of rail-associated boxes ticked by the proposal.
The promoters say the green freeport would also enable the development of large-scale advanced manufacturing, skills and innovation on site, which they claim would be established alongside the proposed new rail freight connection. The Scottish government has already forecast significant additional use of rail freight if it is to meet its own ambitious net-zero carbon targets.
Reactivate moribund infrastructure
The consortium behind the bid for the Forth Green Freeport say they would include sites within Rosyth and Burntisland, both of which have railway heritage and, in the former case, existing but moribund infrastructure. A slick promotional video shows an intermodal train entering a new container terminal on the dockside at Rosyth, located directly adjacent to a revamped ferry terminal, from where soon-to-be-re-established services to continental Europe would dock.
The partners say they expect that Burntisland will be a sister port facility to the newly created Renewables Hub at the Port of Leith, adjacent to Edinburgh on the south side of the river estuary (or “firth”) providing further deep water access and local supply chain capability. Leith has extensive rail infrastructure, and collaboration with Burntisland could see freight return to the Forth Bridge in greater quantity than in several years.
Scotland needs to boost its international connectivity
“Developments at the Port of Rosyth will enhance Scotland’s international connectivity and export capacity through a brand new freight hub”, said a statement from the partners. “[It has] the potential to deliver one billion pounds (1.2 billion euro) of investment and an estimated 7,000 new direct green jobs.” The bid partners also include a suite of local authority partners on both sides of the Firth of Forth.
“Scotland needs to boost its international connectivity, and our plan for new freight hub and rail terminals will offer manufacturers and shippers a fast-track route to global and European markets directly via the North Sea”, said Charles Hammond, chief executive of the Forth Ports Group. “Our plan builds upon the recent DFDS [ferry operator] announcement, which aims to see the return of a direct daily freight ferry route to northern Europe from Scotland while offering an alternative to the congested Dover Straits and reducing dependence on road transport while boosting trade.”
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