A PLAN to boost the use of the national rail network for freight was revealed yesterday.

As part of wider proposals to meet a target of 7.5% growth set by the Scottish Government last year, Network Rail joined with freight operating companies, freight users, industry bodies and hauliers to build the strategy.

The plan sets out what is required to support rail freight growth, looks at ways to improve the average speed a freight train can travel at and how to increase reliability – all ideas that would resulting in more trains reaching their destination on time.

On behalf of the partners, Network Rail stated: “The plan sets out four actions for growth, aligned to workstreams, covering four areas that the rail freight industry believes we collectively need to improve upon: encouraging customer confidence; developing growth; doing things differently and achieving simpler solutions.

“Moving goods by rail boosts productivity and brings in around £200 million in benefits to Scotland’s economy. There are over 600 freight trains running on Great Britain’s network every single day, with around 50 of these trains running in Scotland delivering goods 24 hours of the day. Over 4m tonnes of product was transported by rail in the last 12 months.

“Rail freight also boasts significant environmental benefits and as part of this plan the rail freight industry commits to work in partnership to transfer at least 1700 lorry movements a year from Scotland’s road network to rail over the next five years. Each tonne of freight transported by rail reduces carbon emissions by 7% compared to road and each freight train removes between 25 and 62 HGVs from Scottish roads.”

ScotRail Alliance managing director Alex Hynes said the firm would work “closely” with freight operators to grow freight traffic.

He said: “There are individual businesses and whole industry sectors which could benefit hugely from making rail freight part of their logistics mix and we will be working hard to encourage them onto our network.

“We are also committed to making rail freight as fast and reliable as it can be and are investing in our infrastructure to make switching from road to rail as easy as possible.”