Road to rail modal shift: Distillers’ requirements – ‘criteria for success’
09 Mar 2015
Scotch Whisky industry investment and subsequent increases in
spirit production is driving the need for ever better and flexible
modes of transport for all the industry's input needs, by-products
and spirit (bulk and cased goods).
In 2013 the Scotch Whisky Industry participated in the Highlands
and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS)-led demonstration
project on modal shift (the so-called 'Lifting the Spirit'
The project, was due to formally report in late-2014, tested the
feasibility of switching the transport of some bulk spirit from
road to rail for the journey from Speyside to the Scottish central
The industry supports the use of rail for transporting cased
goods to export markets, for example around 29% of bottled exports
to France were moved by rail in 2012.
Rail transportation of bulk spirit has the potential to cut road
journeys and emissions and offer flexibility in transport options
for a growing industry. The Lifting the Spirit trial was a complex
project with broad support, involving distillers, HITRANS,
Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Network Rail, Moray Council, the
Scottish Government and the EU FoodPort Programme. There was
a real willingness by distillers to be involved in this
collaborative demonstration project. Many challenges were revealed
during the trial - some of which will require strong collaboration
to overcome in the long term.
While the programme showed it was physically possible to move
spirit by rail, it revealed many practical, health and safety,
compliance and contractual matters that need attention before rail
transportation of spirit can become a long-term option for
distillers. The trial demonstrated real appetite across the supply
chain for change and we hope the commitment can be maintained to
make the logistical and commercial aspects of rail transport work
to become a permanent option.
This paper, building on the learnings from the Lifting the
Spirit project aims to signal to the wider downstream supply chain,
the Scotch Whisky industry's broad requirements. It should be
read as 'criteria for success'. The paper covers the
essential criteria that must be met in order to satisfy distillers
and give them the required confidence to consider transport by rail
in the future. These requirements are not exclusive and
individual Scotch Whisky companies may have companyspecific