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Highlands wood panel manufacturer to give 20,000 HGV journeys the chop in road to rail switch


By Alasdair Fraser

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West Fraser Europe Ltd's plant near Inverness.
West Fraser Europe Ltd's plant near Inverness.

A world-leading manufacturer of eco-friendly wood panels near Inverness is looking to switch transportation from road to rail to save 20,000 HGV journeys a year.

West Fraser Europe Ltd - formerly known as Norbord - wants Highland Council planners to approve early stage plans to create a rail sidings yard near its mill at Morayhill in the Dalcross area.

The major development, skirting the A96 and Inverness-Aberdeen railway line west of Tornagrain and south-west of Inverness Airport, is now the subject of a Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) to be considered tomorrow by the south planning applications committee.

If approved, it would enable the firm to transport its products to international markets as freight via the mainline railway rather than the roads network.

It would require the building of the yard featuring a gantry crane, areas of hard standing, a new access road, parking space, fencing, drainage, landscaping and associated infrastructure works and facilities.

Although there are few homes in the immediate vicinity, a public consultation process began in April.

West Fraser Europe sign.
West Fraser Europe sign.

West Fraser Europe is recognised as an international success story in the manufacture of carbon-negative wood-based panels, with its products extensively used in the construction, furniture and DIY industries.

The Dalcross mill is one of four it operates in the UK and at Genk in Belgium and was the first in Europe to manufacture Oriented Strand Board (OSB).

It was also the first on the continent to receive Forestry Stewardship Council accreditation, underlining its environmental commitment.

An application submission by West Fraser Europe states: “The objective of the proposed development is to provide an alternative means of transporting materials to and from West Fraser’s existing site via the use of rail instead of road.

“The proposed development is anticipated to remove the need for around 20,000 HGV journeys per year and support West Fraser’s planned expansion of their business in Scotland.”

Explaining that the proposed design of the yard has not been finalised, the preferred option features two 560 metres-long rail sidings to the south of the existing Aberdeen-Inverness railway line.

There would be connection to the main line to the west of the sidings and use of a 24-30 metres high gantry crane to carry out the loading and unloading of containers.

The site, formerly operated under the name Norbord.
The site, formerly operated under the name Norbord.

Hard standing for articulated lorries would be on land south of the railway line, built with reinforced concrete slab and accommodating two rail sidings, an entry and exit road, three lanes for container storage and space for the gantry crane’s runway.

There would also be office buildings, although their type, location and size is still under review, the papers said.

The development would require the felling of 16,000 sq m of woodland.


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