Helping SMEs take to the rails
Easy does it! The Low Carbon Freight Dividend project is aiming to help SMEs move containers from road to rail – but it’s also designed to keep things simple.
At the launch of this innovative £7.5 million project,Tony Berkeley, chairman of the Rail Freight Group, highlighted the complexities of rail freight operations and welcomed the fact that we will be supporting SMEs through the process and also running workshops to help them find ways to reduce their carbon emissions.
We understand that for most SMEs, the day-to-day, relentless focus must be on what they actually make or produce. How they transport those goods often comes pretty far down the agenda – after all, if they have a supply chain that works, why fix it?
Many simply don’t have the time or staff to spend on tweaking or completely overhauling their transport, and that’s doubly so in these tough economic times.
It’s a reality we have taken on board. The Low Carbon Freight Dividend, which is offering eligible SMEs in the East of England a grant of up to 30% for moving their containers from truck to train, has been organised to keep paperwork and bureaucracy to a minimum.
The website (www.lcfd.co.uk) is simple to use. There is a minimal amount of form-filling – in fact, only two forms have to be signed, and they can be returned together. After that, everything is electronic, including the process of making claims. The grants will be paid, in arrears, based on auditable evidence of the journey taking place by rail.
And if SMEs are struggling with the website, form-filling or any other aspect, the project team is there to support them every step of the way. The onus is on us, not the SME, to do the work – and that is the way it should be!
There are size restrictions on the SMEs that can apply for this support, and that has raised questions where SMEs frequently use third party forwarding agents to handle their transport requirements.
We have been in discussions with rail operators about this issue; they tell us that there are SMEs out there which want to take up the Low Carbon opportunity, but generally outsource transport matters to agents which would be too large to qualify. This is a situation we can work around, subject to verification of the facts and (sorry) some paperwork.
We are pleased to have received considerable support and interest from the rail operators in this project. As David Cross, commercial manager at rail freight operator DB Schenker, said: “Anything that helps offer people a ‘taste’ of rail, however you do it, is a good idea. We are talking about a substantial grant which would be especially welcome in the current climate. People are going to be interested and we believe we can introduce some quite small companies to the Haven Gateway Partnership and this project.”
● Any SMEs interested in the Low Carbon Freight Dividend project should contact Lisa Brazier: email@example.com