Welcome to Ravenscraig signpost and sculpture

No to proposed Scottish rail freight terminal

Welcome to Ravenscraig signpost and sculpture Image by Des Colhoun - GeographUK

Plans for a new rail freight terminal just south of Glasgow have been emphatically rejected by the local authority. Logistics operator John G Russell Group had hoped to establish a terminal on the site of a former steel works at Ravenscraig. However, North Lanarkshire Council, the local authority, has voted overwhelmingly to reject their plans. Campaigners have hailed the result as a major victory, but there remains the likelihood of an appeal by the logistics company, asking the Scottish government to overrule the decision.

Russell, who already operate two terminals nearby, hoped to add a third on land once occupied by Ravenscraig Steel Works, an iconic part of Scottish industrial heritage. However, bringing heavy industry back to the redeveloped site, largely given over to residential and commercial use, has proved contentious. A vigorous campaign led by residents, seems to have persuaded the local authority to deny permission for the development, and the Scottish-based company will have to think again, with an appeal to the government in Edinburgh.

Campaigners sympathetic but resolute

“Russell have been pioneering the use of rail freight for over 45 years”, says a statement from the logistics company. Their plan had been to add to their existing installed capacity at Coatbridge and Glasgow. “Due to rail’s environmental benefits, many manufacturers and retailers are developing their use of rail freight. With UK rail freight terminals in operation, Russell provides high value solutions across the UK and Europe.” However, the Ravenscraig Community Action Group, which has opposed the plans from the beginning, successfully lobbied local government. Now, they see the vote from the local authority as success for their campaign.

Class 66 locomotive hauling a train of Russell containers under a leaden sky
Russell has been a champion of rail freight for almost half a century

A statement from the campaigners showed some sympathy to the needs for rail freight development, but totally rejected the proposals in what has become a largely residential community. “What Russell Group asked was that this council cast aside two decades of planned progress and investment”, says their statement. “Progressive place making happens by choice, not chance. We urge the applicant to reflect and recognise that rail hubs have an important role to play in Scotland’s future, but require sustainable sites in suitable locations.”

More appropriate commercial development

However, last week’s vote by the local authority seems unlikely to be the end of what has become a long-running saga. The Scottish government has set ambitious targets for decarbonising the national economy, and has already singled out cross-border intermodal traffic with England as a prime target. A new terminal at Ravenscraig, which lies adjacent to the West Coast Main Line, would go a long way to fulfilling that goal. It is likely that an appeal to the secretary of state for transport would have the plans revisited with a national context placed upon them.

“Russell promote and encourage, where viable and sustainable, the transfer of freight from road to rail”, says the company. However, campaigners made much capital of the last-mile operations that the proposed terminal would attract. “Rail cannot operate in isolation from other transport modes”, admits Russell. “All Russell rail linked depots are road connected with an on-site distribution fleet enabling the smooth transfer of goods for onward delivery.”

Despite claims that around 2000 jobs would be supported by the terminal, Campaigners say the development would block more appropriate commercial development in the neighbourhood. Russell is not expected to respond before Christmas on the question of an appeal.

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Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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No to proposed Scottish rail freight terminal | RailFreight.com