24 July 2019
Given the importance of the oil and gas industry in the north east, freight plays a very important role both in Aberdeen City and across Aberdeenshire. This is evidenced by the significant movements of both sea freight and road freight around the harbour and across the city. Additionally, due to the location of Aberdeen, and its remoteness from the other major Scottish cities, freight in all forms plays a vital role in the movement of goods to, from and around the region and is critical to the success of the region’s wider economy.
The dominance of road freight is notable and is evidenced in traffic counts which show that traffic on some routes is made up of over 15% heavy goods vehicles (HGVs). This is particularly apparent on the southern entrance to Aberdeen towards the harbour where the concentration of freight is heaviest, with Wellington Road recording levels of HGVs that account for over 20% of all vehicles on that route.
With the full opening of the AWPR in early 2019, there is now a question of whether the current routeing of road freight through the City is still appropriate and, if not, what routes freight should be encouraged to use. Given the importance freight has to the region, it is necessary to ensure that hauliers and associated companies are not negatively affected by any new routeing strategy. Work on the roads hierarchy in Aberdeen City and aims to create a more walkable, desirable and safer city centre will have impacts on the freight industry whose needs will have to be balanced with these wider objectives. This presents a challenge given the unique geography of Aberdeen, the concentration of the retail units and the location of the main distribution centres already operating.
In addition to road freight, it is also important to consider the benefits and importance of rail freight in the north east. This provides a viable alternative to road freight, although it is limited by capacity on the rail line. Whilst it is estimated that there has been a reduction in the volume of retail goods transported by rail, it is vital for transporting significant volumes of construction materials including powdered cement, calcium carbonate and clay slurry. It is estimated that volumes of rail freight have increased during the lifetime of the current RTS however, as it is no longer possible to get a reliable indication of rail freight volumes due to changes in the availability of data, it is difficult to accurately monitor rail freight activity in the north east.
Amendments to the Climate Change Bill have been lodged to set a legally binding target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 at the latest with Scotland becoming carbon neutral by 2040. In addition to the net-zero target for 2045, Scotland will reduce emissions by 70% by 2030 and 90% by 2040 – the most ambitious statutory targets in the world for these years.
This is likely to have serious implications for the freight industry, who primarily operate diesel vehicles. With Aberdeen looking at potential locations for a Low Emission Zone (LEZ), there are further potential implications for freight access in the city centre. Additionally, targets concerning air quality and greenhouse gas emissions can be contradictory, particularly for HGVs, where diversions to avoid a LEZ or Air Quality Management Area, may burn additional fuel and increase emissions.
Given the links between freight activity and the north east economy, it is important to consider the regional economic strategy. The refreshed Regional Economic Strategy (2018–2023) was published in June 2018, and sets out the following objectives:
- Maximising oil and gas recovery and becoming a globally recognised hub for innovation and technology development with a strong, diversified and internationally-focused oil, gas and energy supply chain anchored in the region for the long term and playing a key role in energy transition towards a lower carbon energy system.
- Growing the region’s food, drink, agriculture and fishing; life sciences; and tourism sectors and entrepreneurial environment to deliver a more balanced and resilient economy.
- Inclusive economic growth and investment in our key sectors and quality of place securing the future well-being of the city, the region, our communities and people.
Achieving these objectives will rely on a successful and efficient freight industry. Some of the key actions in the strategy also focus on the need for sustainability and it discusses the requirement for low carbon vehicles in the city centre, particularly with regards to the implementation of hydrogen vehicles. Other key issues highlighted are the need for infrastructure improvements to be prioritised on the key routes in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, and the success of the new harbour.
The Freight Distribution Strategy, published in November 2018, identifies the following vision for freight:
To enable a freight network for the north east of Scotland that is both economically competitive and sustainable, and that supports a greener, healthier environment for both communities and operators.
The key priority for Nestrans in realising this vision is to understand how this can be achieved, whilst contributing to the four pillars of the Regional Transport Strategy which focus around prosperity, equality, health & wellbeing and carbon & the environment.
Questions for consideration
Although we welcome comments on the range of issues related to this topic, we have posed some key questions below for consideration in any response you may wish to make.
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References / Further Information
Civitas Portis Freight Distribution Strategy https://www.nestrans.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/PORTIS-4ABZ3-Freight-Distribution-Strategy-finalised-1.pdf
Regional Economic Strategy (2018-2023) Action Plan https://investaberdeen.co.uk/images/uploads/RES%20Action%20Plan%202018-2023%20FINAL.pdf