Rail Freight Group (RFG) was pleased to respond to the consultation on the National Planning Framework 4. We were pleased to see emphasis given in the NPF4 to the need to decarbonise transport and its commitments to interventions to encourage modal shift to rail freight.
The framework approach to considering the regions of Scotland in the context of their underlying socio-economic characteristics also identifies significant industries and generators of freight traffic. Each region is also a consuming one, often served by very extended supply chains. These longer distances will become increasingly challenging to serve by road, making rail freight an increasingly attractive option for business to consider. Rail network capacity and capability for rail freight, matched with terminal capacity near key centres of population will therefore become more important to enable modal shift and decarbonisation.
We were also pleased to note the recognition that decarbonisation of freight will require the construction of new hubs and associated facilities to support logistics. Growing interest in express logistics from rail operators that would see passenger Electrical Multiple Units converted to carry small freight, targeting the UK parcel market is emerging. However it should be recognised that even for this freight, the primary trunk haul legs move in highly consolidated loads in large vehicles. The requirements for this traffic, as well as bulk rail freight and intermodal freight still requires access to, and availability of, suitable terminals in logistically attractive and operationally viable locations.