Scotch train transportation trial begins

13th September, 2013 by Becky Paskin

Scottish authorities are trialling a new project to transport Scotch whisky by train from Speyside to central Scotland for bottling and maturing.


Trains have not been used to transport goods from Elgin out to central Scotland for around 30 years

The practice of transporting any bulk item by train has not been seen in the area since the mid-1980s, but work by Network Rail with government funding has improved the train route and facilities around Elgin in Speyside.

With all Scotch whisky spirit currently moved by lorries from the region to warehouses and bottling halls across central Scotland, the industry has been investigating ways to streamline transportation and reduce environmental harm, particularly with the Scotch industry growing rapidly.

Driven and part-funded by HITRANS (the Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership), Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Moray Council, the Lifting the Spirit project will transport whisky for several producers, including Diageo, Chivas Brothers, John Dewar & Sons, Whyte & Mackay and Glen Turner.

Fiona Murdoch, Ward Member for Speyside and Moray council’s HITRANS board member, said: “Whisky production and sales are a major part of our local economy, and it is vital that we do what we can to maintain an efficient infrastructure around the industry.

“I am very hopeful that this pilot will see a reduction in lorry journeys up and down the A9, easing congestion and reducing pollution which will benefit everyone.

“It makes perfect sense to use the rail network to move large quantities of spirit from here to the central belt, and I look forward to the time when the rail becomes first choice for producers when transporting bulk goods such as this.”

Trains will run twice a week from 13 September from Elgin to Grangemouth, with empty Bourbon casks and other consumables carried on the return journey.

The trial will run until mid-November when an independent analyst will investigate its long-term feasibility.

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment Richard Lochhead said: “The area covered by this trial is home to 77 distilleries which produce 85 per cent of all of Scotch malt whisky. That equates to a lot of freight on Scotland’s roads. The Scottish Government is keen to see more goods moved by rail or water, where this is commercially viable, to ease traffic congestion and help the environment. I welcome this project and look forward to seeing its results.”

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