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Published: 1 February 2011      

British rail grants schemes axed

The British Rail Freight Group has expressed anger at the Department for Transport’s decision to ‘officially close’ the Freight Facilities Grants scheme in England

The grants, which have been in place since 1974, have delivered significant benefits to stimulate rail freight growth and modal shift, particularly for smaller businesses, allowing them to invest in new facilities, said the RFG.

Maggie Simpson, RFG Policy Manager, said: “This government has previously stated its commitment to reducing UK carbon emissions and supporting smaller businesses to invest. This decision makes a mockery of those promises.” RFG is seeking urgent talks with the DfT to determine a way forwards for its members.

RFG is also awaiting a decision in the Scottish Parliament on the future of FFGs in Scotland. The Scottish Executive has also decided to axe FFGs and one victim appears to be a project of Ailsa Horizons, the South Ayrshire development agency.

It was about to apply for an FFG to build an intermodal terminal at Girvan, adjacent to Grangestone Industrial Estate, to cater for containerised inbound grain shipments from Yorkshire for a nearby distillery and outbound wood pellet shipments, with a throughput forecast of 100,000 tpa (4000 HGV trips).

One positive development for Anglo-Scottish rail freight concerns Marks & Spencer (M&S), which is adopting rail distribution for more products following a successful trial in 2010. More than 300,000 general merchandise (clothing and home) products/week will move from road to rail distribution.

Thus will cut 750,000 road miles and save over 800 tonnes of CO2 a year. 25 containers/week will be operated by DHL on M&S’ behalf, cutting carbon emissions and taking pressure of roads like the M1 and A1(M).

Products will be collected by road from M&S’ DCs in Coventry, Lutterworth and Leicester and trucked to DIRFT Daventry, where they will be railed to Grangemouth for onward to its RDC in Westfield (near Glasgow).

M&S already moves beers, wines and spirits products by rail from Daventry to Scotland, but it has never before moved hanging clothing by rail. The switch has been made possible by a bespoke solution, developed by M&S and DHL, which allows hanging clothing to be transported safely and efficiently in containers.

DHL has designed a “Rail Kit” (patent pending) that allows a standard container to carry hanging garments as well as boxed products.

The hanging garment solution was funded by a grant from the Plan A Innovation Fund, which was set up to finance business ideas that have an environmental or ethical benefit. M&S has committed £50M to the fund over the next five years. To date 38 projects have received £3M worth of funding.

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