PLANS for Highland Spring to trial using trains to transport goods from Blackford were welcomed this week.
Chief executive for the Strathearn-based company, Les Montgomery, unveiled the scheme at the AGM of the Campaign to Open Blackford Railway-station Again (COBRA) on Monday night.
Using the existing siding at the site of the former passenger station, Highland Spring would be able to load their goods onto a train, where it would be taken to distribution points further south.
In an exclusive chat with the Strathearn Herald after the meeting Les, and Daniel Muir, the company’s customer supply and logistics manager, explained the details of the trial.
Daniel said: “We have been working on plans for the trial for about three or four months. One of our haulage partners suggested it and has really taken the lead in discussions with Network Rail.
“We hope to carry out the trial in the next four to eight weeks.”
A specialist crane designed to lift containers onto the train would be brought into the village for the trial.
Les explained that currently, stock from the Blackford factory is taken to three locations in the Central Belt - Coatbridge, Grangemouth and Bellshill - where it is then loaded onto trains which take the goods down south. And around 40 per cent of the company’s products, produced at five sites around the UK, is transported by train for part of its journey.
Back in 2009, Highland Spring did feasibility studies on having sidings for loading outside their premises, which showed that one eight-carriage train would take 16 lorries off the road - and out of the village - per day.
However, both men were keen to stress that plans to create a permanent facility that would allow transporting goods by rail were dependent on the Freight Facilities Grant continuing.
The last time a train stopped in the village was in 1956, and COBRA is keen to see it happen again.
COBRA chairman Neil Gaunt said: “We definitely welcome the news. Any use for the derelict railway siding would be a good thing, as it is giving activity to the yard.
“The proposed local development plan has the site kept as railway land and this just fits in with that.”
Neil added: “Before the war there was a guaranteed overnight delivery anywhere in the UK for freight trains and there’s no reason we can’t get back to that again, and that was back when there were eight stations between Perth and Dunblane.”
Strathallan ward councillor Murray Lyle also gave his support to the trial.
He said: “I think it’s a brilliant initiative and long overdue. I hope it proves that creating a permanent loading structure would be worthwhile.”
Network Rail was contacted for comment but the Herald had not heard back at the time of going to press.