Heavy tanker train leans into curve leaving Perth

Scottish railway suppliers welcome rail funding for next 5 years

Heavy tanker train leans into curve leaving PerthImage courtesy and with permission of John Cumming

The Railway Industry Association, which represents the supply chain in the sector, has welcomed the overdue funding decisions from the government in Scotland. In the last week, publication has finally been made of the the High-Level Output Specification (HLOS) and Statement of Funds Available (SoFA) for Scotland’s Railway infrastructure for the period April 2024 to March 2029 (CP7).

This comes after RIA Scotland last week expressed disappointment in the delay to publication. However, that displeasure perhaps prompted someone within Transport Scotland to hit the send button. Hitting the desk of the RIA in the last few days has been the Statement of Funds Available, which commits the government in Edinburgh to 4.2 billion pounds (five billion euro) of spend throughout CP7 on the operations, maintenance and renewals of rail infrastructure in Scotland. That’s roughly ten per cent of the overall UK rail investment budget for the same period.

Bureaucratic relationship incurs delay

On a like-for-like basis, the funding allocated for CP7 is broadly in line with the previous five years, CP6, which, says the RIA, is positive news for the supply chain. Complications are introduced by the bureaucratic relationship between the UK government administered infrastructure agency Network Rail, and the Scottish government and their agency, Transport Scotland. The latter’s only response has been a terse statement. “Transport Scotland has submitted the HLOS and SoFA statement/information to the ORR [the UK government’s Office of Rail and Road] within the requested legal timescales. The minister for transport intends to provide an update to Parliament and wider stakeholders in due course.”

Infrastructure train crosses Culloden Viaduct south of Inverness
Bridging the gap. Industry sources say they would like to see more development in Scottish rail freight, but there are bureaucratic valleys to be crossed in cross-border relations (Network Rail image)

It’s not clear which minister nor to which parliament Transport Scotland refers, but the ones in Edinburgh would be good guesses. Meanwhile, it is certainly the RIA in Scotland that has welcomed the ambitions set out in the HLOS, and the opportunity for rail suppliers to contribute to the success of what they call ‘Team Scotland’. We assume that’s no reference to the Calcutta Cup rugby win at the weekend.

An outbreak of collaboration

Nevertheless, the document makes good reading for both passenger and freight sectors. The document is divided into themes, such as ‘working together to deliver’, Net-Zero, Net Cost, Efficient Electrification and a whole system approach to integrating renewals and enhancements. An outbreak of collaboration on that scale would certainly be a signal towards a good five years for the industry north of the Border.

Freight trains crossing in the Scottish Highlands
Freight trains crossing in the Scottish Highlands (Image courtesy John Cumming)

RIA Scotland particularly welcomes the requirement for Scottish Government Ministers to consider a rolling programme of steady work-banks and activity, using and developing resources based in Scotland in order to secure the most efficient means to deliver rail projects”, said the RIA in a statement of response. That aludes to eliminating the inefficient ‘start-stop’ nature of rail industry investment, so often prevalent. “This level of consistency will help support supplier investment in skills and equipment, thereby improving productivity, building and sustaining capability and ultimately boosting economic growth in Scotland.”

Government flags up its involvement

Scotland has seen modest, but significant developments in the rail freight network recently. The privately promoted freight terminals at Mossend and Grangemouth continue to develop, while the Edinburgh government has been keen to flag up its involvement in, for example, the terminal at Highland Spring, and the provision for freight being included in the Levenmouth project. More development may be hoped for, particularly around the recently announced Green Freeports on the River Forth and in the north of Scotland.

“To fulfill the commitments set out in the HLOS, it will be essential that Scotland’s Railway and suppliers work more closely together, and be more innovative about how we both deliver for Scotland and make the case for enhancements”, said Meirion Thomas, the chair of the RIA in Scotland. “It is welcome that there is a recognition of the need for Transport Scotland and others to engage with the whole supply chain, which RIA Scotland has been regularly calling for in recent months.”

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

1 comment op “Scottish railway suppliers welcome rail funding for next 5 years”

Alan Rogerson|06.02.23|13:47

Er.. the first picture is Ribblehead, not Culloden. Wrong viaduct, wrong country. Nice picture though.

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