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How democratic is ORR pricing Scottish coal traffic off the railways?

ORR is famously independent in its analysis and decision making but should civil servants in London be making social economic decisions which will devastate the Scottish coal industry and undermine rail freight, the low carbon safe long distance alternative to road. There is a lack of democratic accountability in the ORR attempting to 'price off' Scottish coal traffic from the railways which will result, in the short term, in the transfer of thousands of trainloads of freight back onto the roads, equating to around 133,300 more long distance HGV journeys. In the medium term, the increased charges could result in the closure of the Scottish open cast mines thereby exporting over 4000 well paid jobs from Scotland to Russia.

The ORR says that switching from road to rail reduces CO2 emissions by 70 per cent per tonne, but under its proposals a charge of £4.04 per tonne will be added to the current track access charge of £2.83 per tonne. the unintended consequence might be that coal freight is forced on to the road network. The charge will be levied on a per-kilometre-travelled basis. Given that 50 per cent of coal produced in Scotland-around 2 million tonnes-travels to market in England by rail every year, the new arrangements will place coal operators in Scotland at a severe disadvantage.

The Coal industry supports around 1,500 direct, full-time jobs and 3,000 indirect jobs in the Scottish supply chain, and generates approximately £450 million per annum in economic value for Scotland.

See Herald article

Extract - Philippa Edmunds, manager of the Freight on Rail lobby group, said the move was contrary to government targets to increase the amount of freight transported by rail and could result in "the closure of the Scottish indigenous coal industry in the medium term".

She added: "It could put Scottish miners out of work and lead to higher levels of imported coal. Effectively the ORR plans could export employment in the mining sector from Scotland to Russia."

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