Trains trial for Speyside whisky deliveries
The whisky industry on Speyside is starting a two-month trial to improve the use of rail freight with the aim of reducing road traffic and emissions.
Two weekly trains will replace 29 lorry trips to take whisky to Grangemouth.
Casks and grain will be transported north in the same containers.
Several producers are working on the Lifting the Spirit project, alongside Highlands and Island Enterprise, Moray Council, and the Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership.
The trains are running from Elgin, and HIE is investing £30,000 in the project.
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "The area covered by this trial is home to 77 distilleries which produce 85% all of Scotch malt whisky.
"That equates to a lot of freight on Scotland's roads.
"The Scottish government is keen to see more goods moved by rail or water, where this is commercially viable, to ease traffic congestion and help the environment.
"I welcome this project and look forward to seeing its results."
Tony Jarvis, HIE's senior development manager for transport, said: "Any increase in whisky production requires a proportional increase in the transport required, with additional pressure on roads and carbon emissions.
"The project partners and the whisky industry are keen to find ways to offset or reduce these impacts, and rail provides a potentially viable option for longer distance movements."
Julie Hesketh-Laird, director of operational and technical affairs at the Scotch Whisky Association, added: "Lifting the Spirit is an innovative and collaborative trial allowing us to move some of the spirit from our distilleries in Speyside to central Scotland by rail for a trial period."