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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 January 2008, 16:41 GMT
Changing times ahead for Grangemouth
By Jo Perry
BBC Scotland news website

Grangemouth port aerial
The port handles about 15,000 containers a month
Plans to enhance the Freight Hub at Grangemouth could address long-term transport problems associated with the area.

Last year the port handled about 15,000 containers a month, making it the busiest in Scotland.

Recent upgrades to the facility have seen the total number of vehicles through the port increase from an average of 1,500 to 1,800 per week.

Grangemouth is one of the main commercial ports in the UK. It is known as an "intermodal hub" because it has links by road, sea and rail.

In November, Falkirk East MSP Cathy Peattie called for the surrounding traffic infrastructure to be upgraded to deal with the heavy use of freight vehicles.

Marine life

Under the Scottish Government's proposed new National Planning Framework the area's road and rail infrastructure would be improved.

If the current plan is given the go-ahead there will be an expansion of the site's freight storage and handling facilities.

The rail link through Falkirk Grahamston would be electrified to improve the transportation times of freight moving through the area.

There would also be better connections to the M9 and M8 motorways.

Perhaps most notable for locals would be the proposal to separate community and dock traffic.

Despite handling about 10% of the country's total cargo and being home to most of Scotland's petrochemical industry, the future could see a significant increase in freight movement out of Grangemouth.

The government believes that by improving on current rail facilities they could reduce by half the projected 10% annual growth in lorry movements around the port.

In theory the move would also see a reduction in local road congestion.

'Main artery'

Any future expansion of the port would require an assessment of the environmental impact as well as improving plans to protect the area from coastal flooding and the potential for risk of pollution of marine life.

Alan Burns, director of Forth Ports who own Grangemouth port, said the Scottish Government's recognition of its importance was good news.

He said: "The inclusion of Grangemouth in the National Planning Framework for Scotland is well justified and is both a reflection of the role played by the port in today's economy and its considerable potential to support future economic growth.

"Grangemouth is Scotland's main artery to European markets and offers priority access to global distributors for Scottish goods.

"Improvements in road and rail infrastructure are vital in continuing to deliver this function effectively and support Scotland's growth in international markets."

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