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Visit to Highland Spring & Presentation by Ken Russell, Russell Transport and Morwen Mands, Highland Spring: 29 October 2019

Ken Russell, Russell Transport and Morwen Mands, Highland Springd

Ken Russell, Russell Transport and Morwen Mands, Highland Spring

© John Yellowlees, 2019

Highland Spring Group was established in 1979 with the first bottle sold in 1980. The business employs over 470 staff across four sites and is the UK's leading producer of natural source bottled water.

Highland Spring Group produces brands including Highland Spring, Speyside Glenlivet, Hydr8 and a range of private label flavoured and unflavoured waters for some of the UK's major supermarkets and food service retailers. Highland Spring Group's core purpose is to provide healthy hydration in an environmentally sustainable way. The business is proud to be a responsible producer and have been named the UK's leading ethical bottled water brand by The Good Shopping Guide for the last 12 years running.

The business increased their bottling capacity in 2017 by installing a new production line at their Blackford facility. At the time of installation, the new line was the fastest, most technologically advanced PET bottled drinks line in the UK and they were honoured to have the new facility officially opened by HM The Queen in July 2017.

A view of the rail link.d

A view of the rail link.

© John Yellowlees 2019

Highland Spring water is carefully drawn from the majestic Ochil Hills in Perthshire in an environmentally sustainable way. A mere 3% of the total rainfall is abstracted and the business protects the land and environment around their water sources. Highland Spring was the first bottled water brand in the UK to have its catchment area certified as organic by The Soil Association.

Highland Spring Group have implemented numerous energy saving initiatives at their production sites over the years and are committed to developing intelligent, sustainable innovations in new product development and packaging. Following a hugely successful trial in 2018, the business rolled-out their 100% recycled and recyclable Highland Spring eco bottle in 2019 across the UK. Over 10 million Highland Spring eco bottles have been sold to date.

Highland Spring Group takes its role in the circular economy seriously and are proactive in encouraging consumers to recycle their bottles and responsibly dispose of used products. All Highland Spring PET plastic bottles are 100% recyclable, and the business will increase the recycled PET content of Highland Spring bottles to 50% by 2022.

Construction will shortly begin on a new rail freight facility, adjacent to the Group's main bottling plant in Blackford. This will enable the business to transport goods in a more environmentally sustainable way and reduce its carbon footprint through the removal of circa 8,000 truck movements from the road per year, saving 3,200 tonnes of CO2. The new facility will be operated by JG Russell, a long-term strategic partner of the business.

Russell Group have been pioneering the use of rail freight as a sustainable transport method since the 1970's. They currently operate 6 rail linked sites and have an impressive delivery performance of 99.4% on southbound rail transportation. With a wealth of experience in both rail and multimodal logistic solutions, they are an ideal partner to assist Highland Spring's desire to increase their use of rail freight.

Highland Spring Group were granted planning permission for the rail freight facility in 2016 and entered the Network Rail GRIP (Governance for Railway Investment Projects) process in February 2017. GRIP is a management and control process developed by Network Rail for delivering projects on the operational railway.

Highland Spring Group emphasised how supportive Network Rail have been throughout the design and approval process and they have developed an excellent working relationship based on mutual trust and co-operation. During design development, Network Rail discussed any future-proofing requirements in the Blackford area, such as proposed electrification of the main line between Dunblane and Perth and Scottish Governments plans for improved passenger services. It was established that the approved access arrangements to the site were not going to be sustainable long term when taking account of the increase in passenger services. Network Rail, who are supportive of accommodating rail freight, took a collaborative and proactive approach to agree a solution for a new south facing connection to access and egress the facility.

Highland Spring Group submitted a planning application to amend the existing consent for the revised access arrangements and permission was granted in September 2018.Understanding of Highland Spring Group's timescales, Network Rail developed the design and installed the new rail connection less than 10 months from agreeing the revised access. The design change has resulted in benefits to the operational functionality of the site, which, in turn, has resulted in benefits to the local community.

Highland Spring Group has sensitively designed the facility to minimise the noise and visual impact on the community and the business is, and has always been, committed to being a good neighbour. Each train will be equivalent in size to 22 HGVs. Two daily train paths Monday to Friday and a weekly Saturday train path have been secured. A fully electric rubber tyre crane will lift and position containers on the train and Highland Spring Group are exploring opportunities to bring raw materials to site by rail which will further reduce their carbon footprint. Rail freight reduces CO2 emissions by up to 76 per cent compared to road and if the main line between Dunblane and Perth is electrified in future, there is an opportunity to consider the use of hybrid electric freight trains.

Luddon Construction will soon begin construction of the new freight facility, the first in Scotland for over 10 years. Construction is expected to take 12-14 months with the facility being operational early 2021. Highland Spring Group highlighted that excellent collaborative working relationships have been key to the progress and success of the project to date.

Report by John Yellowlees.


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