Bid to put rail link on track

'The next train arriving at St Andrews' is the announcement campaigners want to hear.
'The next train arriving at St Andrews' is the announcement campaigners want to hear.
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The call has gone out again for St Andrews to get back on track with a railway line.

Railfuture Scotland, part of the UK’s leading independent organisation campaigning for better rail services for passengers and freight, has unveiled an action plan with its top proposals to upgrade and modernise the country’s rail network.

Speaking at the organisation’s autumn meeting in Edinburgh last weekend, Railfuture Scotland’s vice-chair Roderick McDougall, a retired chartered engineer, revealed a list of 50 recommended new stations on the existing network and 23 new short branch lines, including St Andrews.

St Andrews was also mentioned by the meeting’s guest speaker. In an address entitled “From despair to hope - the revival of Britain’s railways from Beeching to HS2”, transport expert Lord Faulkner, co-author with Chris Austin of ‘Holding the Line - How Britain’s Railways were Saved’, noted that the cuts culminating in the Beeching and subsequent closures took a heavy toll on Scotland, including the lines to Bathgate, Alloa and the Borders, the value of which was now being proved by their re-opening.

He went on to say how valuable the link to St Andrews would have been today, as well as the Kinross line, given the growth in demand which had led to the need to spend billions on Scotland’s roads.

Welcoming these endorsements, Starlink (St Andrews Rail Link) convenor Jane Ann Liston said: “The number of individuals and organisations recognising that cutting St Andrews off from the rail network was a great mistake has grown significantly over the past 25 years.

“The recent report by Tata Steel showed that a rail service, on a new route with direct links to Edinburgh and Dundee is feasible.

“Recently there have been encouraging meetings with Network Rail and SESTRAN, as well as local campaigning with the Royal Burgh of St Andrews Community Council.

“Buoyed up by these latest endorsements, the Starlink campaign calls on the transport and planning authorities to come up with proposals to take the next steps and facilitate the carrying out of the necessary professional evaluation according to Scottish Government guidelines.

“There is no doubt that reconnecting St Andrews would be a great economic benefit not just to the rest of Fife but the wider east of Scotland.”

However, St Andrews Partnership sounded a note of caution in reading too much into Railfuture Scotland’s proposal.

A spokesman for the organisation said: “Last year, St Andrews Partnership called for a full, independent and professional evaluation of the St Andrews rail links proposals to be carried out under the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance procedures. Our position remains unchanged since then; only when - and if - such an evaluation is completed can a properly informed debate take place.”

Railfuture Scotland is calling on the Government to open 23 short feeder lines, including the existing freight line at Levenmouth, and build five new lines, including the St Andrews link; double the proposed rate of electrification of the rail network; accelerate the capacity and speed improvements on the Highland Main Line, and increase commuter services at stations within 20 miles of major employment centres.