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"The role of the FTA in Scotland" by Chris MacRae, Head of Policy, Scotland and Manager, Rail Freight Policy. Glasgow meeting of Tuesday 27th November 2012

Chris MacRae began his presentation with a brief outling of his career, from his days as a Glasgow bus driver, through NFC (Pickfords) to training roles with the FTA and to his present position of Head of Policy, Scotland and Manager, Rail Freight Policy. He then outlined the role of the FTA which is a multi-modal supply chain association with membership of around 14,000 members and employing some 450 staff.

The FTA membership includes users of air, road, rail and sea transport and it's members between them account for approximately 90% of UK freight, 70% of rail freight and about 50% of operator licensed road freight vehicles. The FTA is also active in the Irish Republic with FTA Ireland and also has a Brussels office. It also provides the Secretariat for the Global Shippers Forum.

A key point is the diversity of FTA membership, with members ranging from large transport groups to small operators and it also represents users of freight transport, i.e. those who rely on transport although themselves are not transport organizations, such as high street retailers and also includes utility companies and NHS Trusts. The FTA is the voice of the supply chain and provides a wide range of services to its members. These include training, vehicle inspections, tachograph analysis, legal advice and information on best practice. Most of the FTA's revenue comes from its services.

Turning to Scotland, Chris pointed out that in European terms, Scotland is a small country and this brings challenges as world trade globalizes so we need to have efficient supply chains. For exports, such as whisky with its global sales, there is a need to optimize routes to market. Changes in the supply chain can also affect investment. Scotland is fortunate in that is has good capital investment programmes and these have led to investment, for example, to enable 9'6" containers to be operated by rail. There has also been investment in roads to improve connections.

The issue of peripherality is one that Scotland faces as many shipping companies, now operating larger ships want to make fewer calls and global trade now favours the southern gateway ports, so the route to market is via road or rail to the south or by the use of feeder shipping. One challenge is to get politicians to understand the problems faced and this is where the FTA has a role to play in educating politicians in global supply chain patterns. There is a need to have some Scottish ports developed to serve the feeder market to the south or to Europe and also provide better road and rail links.

The Scottish Government has allocated some £30 million for 2014 - 2019 as part of the High Level Output Specification to help optimise the rail network for freight by providing, for example, longer loops and gauge clearance for 9'6" containers. There is also a £200 million available in England for similar enhancements. However, the Office of the Rail Regulation (ORR) is reviewing track access charges for freight and is considering increases: any increases are likely to be passed on to the customer.

One option is to charge on the basis of the maintenance costs of the specific route and as maintenance costs on a geographic basis are relatively higher for lines in Scotland due to the nature of the terrain they cross, it could have an effect on Scotland with increased costs for customers and this could lead to more freight going by road. An example is that of coal traffic and the ORR has indicated that it would be acceptable if 10% of traffic transferred back to road. The FTA is meeting with the Government and lobbying against such changes.

Scotland is fortunate in having sub-national regional land use planning and 30 year forecasts, whereas in England there is local planning so it is much harder to get things done as with Strategic Rail Freight Interchanges. The benefit is that with the Scottish system improvements can be made more easily for freight.

Another challenge Scotland faces is that whilst overall the country is a net exporter, there is an imbalance of exports over imports, leading to problems in the supply chain. An example is that most goods are exported in containers, but most retail goods imported come into the country in curtainsided units, the goods being trans-shipped from containers at southern based distribution centres. This results in a shortage of empty containers and increases costs as empty containers need to be transported to Scotland. The FTA is encouraging retailers to look at making more use of containers and this would help address the problem.

The FTA is also works with the Scottish Freight Logistics Advisory Group of the Scottish Government and also developed the Scottish Supply Chain Forum. The FTA is also involved in other areas, such as the A9 Safety Group, winter preparation, incident management, training services including the driver CPC etc. The challenges posed by the Commonwealth Games in 2014 for the supply chain are also being looked as there will be a need to maintain supply chain operations during the period of the games.

There was a lively question and answer session and many points were discussed before the Chairman, Derek Halden gave the vote of thanks and presented Chris with a memento of the evening.

The Scottish Region would like to thank Chris MacRae for his presentation and assistance with this report and also Glasgow City Council for hosting the event and providing the refreshments.

Report by John Fender.

 

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