THE Scottish Government has allocated £195,000 for a trial to transport timber by rail in the north of Scotland.

Victa Railfreight has been awarded the funding through the Scottish Strategic Rail Freight Fund, which is open to rail freight industry partners to table proposals for improvements which meet modal shift objectives.

Beginning this week, the six-week trail between Caithness and Inverness will operate up to three trains a week, with a capacity of moving around 6,000 tonnes of timber.

Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure & Connectivity Michael Matheson said: “We have worked closely with the timber and rail freight industry to explore opportunities for modal shift and I am delighted to confirm funding for this rail freight trial which will remove around 250 lorries from our busy roads.

“This Government has a strong track record of support for rail freight, we know that rail freight and modal shift to rail reduces road congestion, improves air quality and reduces emissions. 

“The trial will help to demonstrate that the movement of timber in Scotland by rail is possible as well as efficient and, it will provide confidence to both the timber and rail freight industries to develop permanent and sustainable solutions to meet market needs.

“This type of collaboration can support a sustainable green economic recovery from the current health crisis.  It is good news for the timber and rail freight industry, for the Scottish economy and for the environment.”

Neil Sime, Victa Railfreight's managing director said: "Victa is delighted that the Scottish Government has provided substantial funding so that we could bring together rail freight and timber industry partners to enable this collaborative trial of moving timber by rail to happen.

“We hope that it will lead to further movements of timber by rail across Scotland, providing greener solutions and reducing damage to sensitive rural roads.”

Jamie Farquhar, national manager for Scotland for forestry and wood trade body Confor, said: "This is most welcome news, particularly as rail may be the only way to get some otherwise landlocked timber to market. 

"Confor has worked hard for many years with the Timber Transport Forum to minimise the carbon footprint and impact of timber transport on rural communities - and rail can provide another effective option to do this, and to supply timber to our wood processing industry.

"We wish Victa Railfreight every success in this venture."

Anne MacKenzie, senior route freight manager for Network Rail Scotland, said: “We have worked proactively with the government and our freight industry partners to support the development of the trial which will accommodate the safe and efficient movement of timber on the rail network. 

“We are confident that this trial will demonstrate that rail is a viable and environmentally sustainable way to transport timber and are delighted to have worked closely with our rail freight industry partners in supporting this co-operative venture.”

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