A new waste transfer station has been opened in Inverness. It is located on the former Longman Landfill Site and is described by The Highland Council (THC) as "State of the Art". The plant is expected to process around 65,000 tonnes of waste annually.
Chair of Highland Council's Communities and Place Committee, Councillor Graham MacKenzie said, "By sending our mixed waste to an Energy from Waste plant, we will start seeing significantly lower carbon emissions from waste management activities in the Highlands, even with the additional transport requirements, which is brilliant news in contributing to achieving our Net Zero goals."
The decision THC had to face was whether to build its own Energy from Waste (EfW) plant on the site, which had a large capital cost and an expected timeline of 2027 before being operational, or to send processed waste to a plant elsewhere. To assist them in this decision they employed environmental consultants SLR Consulting, whose tagline is "Making Sustainability Happen".
SLR's assessment laid out the options and gave a presentation of key findings in July 2020. The assessment is heavily weighted towards rail transport being used - "rail haulage appears to potentially offer significant cost benefits, particularly for long-distance haulage (although this option requires a rail-head at the destination plant and therefore is not universally available)." Under the heading of "Carbon Cost Assessment of Shortlisted Options" the assessment states, "if the haulage of waste over long distances is unavoidable, transport by rail is better than transport by road."
THC made the decision to build the waste transfer station and send the processed waste to Viridor's EfW plant in Dunbar. A key attraction of Viridor's site is that it is already rail connected. Given the Scottish Government's policy of modal shift of freight to rail this is a huge potential benefit.
How the waste transfer is done will be a very public test of The Highland Council's awareness of the urgent need for modal shift of freight to rail. With the Dunbar site being rail connected it's hard to imagine that the waste would not be sent by rail. The best option would be to construct a siding from the Inverness-Aberdeen railway which runs past the end of the site near the Raigmore Interchange, this would encourage future businesses operating from the site to use rail too.
We understand that although the plant is now operational, the bidding process for the contract to move the waste is still open (at the end of April 2023) and that interest has been expressed by rail freight companies.
Given Transport Scotland's financial support for the construction of the necessary trackwork for a siding to the West Fraser site at Dalcross, it is reasonable to expect consideration of a similar contribution at the Longman site.