scotland (4K)
The Friends of the Far North Line
Cairdean Na Loine Tuath
the campaign group for rail north of Inverness - lobbying for improved services for the local user, tourist and freight operator

Good news on rail-freight links

Rail-freight operator English Welsh and Scottish Railway (EWS) is planning a big increase soon in services in and out of Aberdeen.

Aberdeen currently handles an average of three freight trains a day from locations including Walsall and the Euroterminal facility at Mossend in Lanarkshire, but would like to see this figure double by the start of summer.

A new reachstacker crane is to be installed at the Guild Street freight yard next month and this will speed up the movement of containers. Freight trains carry a variety of goods, including parcels, food, drink, building materials and paper.

A spokesman for EWS said the demand was there from customers for more trains. He said one benefit of freight going by rail would mean less lorries on the roads - easing traffic congestion. The spokesman said one train could carry the same freight as 40 lorries. Inverness currently averages five freight trains daily from locations including Walsall and Mossend and this will go up to six by the summer.

At the Rail Freight Group Scottish conference in Edinburgh yesterday, EWS outlined plans to grow services to and from Scotland. It said that, over the last year, demand has increased from customers for the range of services provided by EWS in Scotland. "To meet this growth in demand, particular emphasis will be placed on expanding the international, high-speed and general freight services provided by the company," added the company.

EWS said it was pursuing the operation of express rail freight services at 125mph south of the border. The current fastest speed is 110 mph. Allen Johnson, EWS chief operating officer, said: "Scotland is an important trading nation within Europe and requires high-speed, frequent and reliable national and international rail-freight services, as operated by EWS, in order to trade effectively. "Such services play an important role in the functioning of the economy and the competitiveness of companies trading throughout Britain and with Europe. The expansion of rail-freight services to and from Scotland by EWS reflects increasing demand for such services and the growing importance of rail in meeting the logistics requirements of business."

Last week, EWS said it was to recruit and train more than 300 new operational staff this year. Around 10% of the new employees are expected to be north of the border. EWS said 182 more drivers were needed because of the increasing demand for rail-freight services. Another consequence is that 143 new groundstaff will be required. They prepare trains prior to departure and also carry out essential safety and maintenance checks. EWS said train drivers earned on average more than £30,000 a year, while groundstaff received an average £20,000. The spokesman said yesterday there had been a good response to the recruitment campaign.

EWS moves more than 100 million tonnes of freight each year and runs over 8,000 trains each week. It employs in excess of 6,200 staff.

by lan Forsyth

Our thanks to the Press & Journal for allowing us to reproduce this article which appeared, along with an editorial, on Saturday April 5 2003