Thursday, January 19, 2012

More Road to Rail Freight ? As Government 'Backs' Intermodal Switchover

'Pitifully Small' Investment in Transport Slated by Rail Freight Group
Shipping News Feature

UK – Minister for Housing and Transport, Keith Brown, has announced a £50 million investment in revised greener transport options including assisting the transfer of freight from road to rail as well as spending on low carbon transport methods, cycling and a £2 million pound spend on greener buses. It is not known how much of the money will be allocated to promote intermodal transport methods.

The allocated funds have been spread over the next four years with an initial £22 million up to 2014 then rising to over £20 million by 2016. The move has been welcomed by some political groups with others saying not enough has been done to fulfil election pledges such as the SNP’s target of 10% of journeys by bike by 2020. Mr Brown said:

“The Scottish Government is committed to promoting sustainable and active travel. The Future Transport Fund provides opportunities to invest further in low-carbon transport, working with a range of delivery bodies across the country. One of our key priorities now is to create the conditions for change, and in Scotland at the current time that means a focus on sustainable economic growth. These investments will support that goal through the opportunities for Scottish businesses, as well as the wider benefits to society.”

The announcement was greeted with derision by the Rail Freight Group who see the statement as a 62.5% cut in intermodal funding. David Spaven, the Group's Scottish Representative commented:

“The Freight Facilities Grant budget will drop from £2m this year to just £0.75m in 2012-13, a pitifully small amount of money to devote to a successful scheme which delivers important economic and environmental benefits for Scotland. The availability of FFG capital grant has been critical to the vast majority of the freight switch from road to rail in Scotland in recent decades. But with the FFG budget now set to decline from £7m to £0.75m in the space of just two years while the roads budget is ballooning.

"It is hard to believe that the Scottish Government is serious about the role rail freight can play in a sustainable Scottish economy. £0.75m is equivalent to the cost of just 2.5 metres of construction of the Second Forth Road Bridge, which is swallowing up much of the transport investment which should be going into carbon-reducing alternatives to big new roads."