CLWYD SOUTH AM KEN SKATES has warned new rail freight charges being considered by the UK Government could damage industry in North Wales.
The Office for Rail Regulation have proposed an extra levy on operators moving power station coal, iron ore, spent nuclear fuel and biomass, which could amount to an additional £60m year being charged.
They also hinted at further levies being imposed on other types of rail freight in the near future.
CLWYD SOUTH AM KEN SKATES, who is also a member of the Assembly’s Enterprise and Business Committee, said:
“I’m very worried that at a time of economic difficulty the UK Government is looking to impose extra charges on businesses moving freight in North Wales.
“Gradually encouraging more goods to be moved by rail is not only good for the environment, it is good for business too. Switching freight from roads reduces CO2 emissions by an average of 70-80% per cent per tonne and takes congestion off our clogged road network.
“We are sending a bad message to businesses that the UK Government doesn’t support them and is not willing to invest in rail freight. The proposed imposition of additional charges for moving rail freight means more goods will now be moved by truck, putting an extra strain on our road network in North Wales.
“The UK Government is sending out mixed signals. Their Ministers regularly used to declare they wanted to shift freight from road onto rail. That is why the Welsh Government recently invested £500,000 in a new rail spur to the Kronospan site in Chirk, a move which will help move an extra 100,000 tonnes of timber by rail to Chirk via Colas Rail.
“The worry is that other sectors might now feel the UK Government breathing down their neck and wanting to impose extra charges on them too. Rail is an underused way of moving freight and it must be encouraged not disincentivised.”
The ORR suggests the move could lead to a rail traffic reduction of at least 10 per cent in the chosen sectors, but hinted it may introduce other charges later on.