Back on track?

The Freight Transport Association has welcomed the appointment of Alex Neil MSP as Minister for Infrastructure and Capital Investment in the Scottish Government.

But the leading trade body insists that the Freight Facilities Grant (FFG) must be protected to keep alive Scotland’s environmental ambitions and to optimise its economic recovery.

Following pressure from FTA and key industry leaders, including the bosses of The Edrington Group, The Malcolm Group and Russell Logistics the previous Scottish Government, since re-elected, announced a partial retrenchment on its plans for cutting the grant earlier this year.

Chris MacRae, FTA’s Head of Policy for Scotland, said: “Money is tight, but these grants encourage companies to transfer goods from road to rail; with one train able to remove around 50 lorries from our congested roads, the protection of FFG is vital for Scotland’s economy and the environment.”

FTA represents over 1,000 companies in Scotland across the supply chain and by all modes of transport.

MacRae concluded: “We look forward to working with Mr Neil to once again press home the need for investment in infrastructure, to stress the importance of optimising efficiency around Scotland’s ports and airports, and to ensure our roads are as safe and well managed as possible so as to ensure Scotland’s economic connectivity.”

Ailsa Horizons manager, Stuart Lindsay, welcomed the FTA’s statement and hopes to have their bid for cash ready and top of the line

He said: “I fully endorse the FTA’s position on FFG and I’m aware that the Rail Freight Group and other industry bodies intend to make representations to the Scottish Parliament on the same subject. It is absolutely clear that FFG is a vitally important lever in the effort to reduce Scotland’s carbon emmisions and reduce congestion on our roads.

“At the beginning of this year Ailsa Horizons played an important part in the campaign to reverse the SG decision to close the FFG scheme to capital projects in 2011/12.

“That culminated in a debate at Holyrood during which the SNP and the four other parties supported the scheme. That was followed by a decision to provide £2m for capital projects in this financial year.

“Unfortunately, we had some difficulties with the business plan for our rail freight facility at Grangestone and were not able to meet the deadline for applications to this round. More recently we have had further discussions with key players in the rail freight sector.

“All the signs are that our proposal can be made viable. We have solid support from South Ayrshire Council and others on the basis that a railhead at Grangestone will be good for businesses already located there, will encourage inward investment, and will take thousands of lorries off the A77 and other local roads.

“Obviously, this is a project that we should continue to pursue and we intend to work on it over the coming months. Reinstatement of FFG is essential to our proposals.

“I believe that the close fit between this funding scheme and a raft of SG’s policies and strategies makes it highly likely that FFG will be continued into 2012/13 and beyond. We want to be first in the queue when the fund opens up again.”