Reinstating the rail link to St Andrews is a project of national significance.
That’s the view of the local community council in its submission to the Scottish Government, as the latter starts preparation of its third National Planning Framework, the spatial strategy for Scotland aimed at identifying a number of ‘national developments’ and establishing the need for them in the national interest.
Council vice-chairman, Dr Ian Goudie, told the Citizen this week: ”St Andrews itself is of international importance, given the status of its university and the role of the town as the Home of Golf.
“Its key place in the leisure market is recognised by VisitScotland and Scottish Enterprise. Yet, the development of all of these facets of the town, with all their implications for the Scottish economy, is hindered by transport links that are far from world class.”
The community organisation is proposing the construction of a rail link to provide direct services to Edinburgh and Dundee and, specifically, approximately five miles of single track from St Andrews to Seggie, as recommended by the high-level concept report published in May by Tata Steel and commissioned by StARLink campaigners.
Also proposed are south-facing and north-facing chords at Seggiehill and Moonzie respectively to link with the east coast main line; route alignment to enable maximum speed of 90mph; a new hourly service to Edinburgh, perhaps via Dunfermline; new hourly or half-hourly service to Dundee; a new station in St Andrews, just short of the former station sit, but close enough to form an integrated transport interchange with the adjacent bus station; and a single platform station with passive provision for a run-round loop and a second platform for charter trains.
The council considers that a St Andrews rail link also ticks several boxes of current concern and will specifically contribute to the target of an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050.
It points out that despite an improved bus service from St Andrews, the overflowing car park at Leuchars station tells its own tale, confirming the reluctance of car drivers to use buses instead.
Dr Goudie added: ”Although the rail link itself - which Tata Steel has calculated will operate at a profit - will provide a small number of new jobs, the indirect implications are much greater.
“St Andrews is currently one of only a handful of university towns in Britain without a direct rail service. The university, already much the largest employer in the town, will be strengthened in many ways. In particular, there will be increased potential for industrial and commercial research spin-offs, currently hindered by geography.
”St Andrews is also a top tourist destination and north east Fife recorded 2.8 million tourist days in 2010, with St Andrews accounting for 47 per cent of the total visitor days and 60 per cent of the tourism revenue. Easier access to the town will boost the hotel trade, particularly in the low season, and increase usage of golf facilities.
“The rail link will open up the St Andrews employment market to jobseekers from Dundee and the less affluent areas of Fife, and provide new options for St Andreans.”
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In deciding whether to come to Scotland, the ease of access to the destination of interest determines many visitors’ decisions and the community organisation has pointed out that the Tata Steel study envisages a rail service with a stop at Edinburgh Gateway, thus providing a direct link to the airport interchange from St Andrews.
Dr Goudie concluded: ”With the urgent need to address the problem of climate change, the transport policies of the last 50 years are no longer viable. Reconnection of St Andrews to the rail network will need to happen sooner or later. In view of the development pressures on the town, the sooner the nettle is grasped the easier the job will be.”
The community council has set up a rail sub-committee to oversee the consultation process with all interested parties of the feasability study produced by Tata Steel.
Convener of StARLink, Jane Ann Liston, a member of the sub-committee, said: ”Our campaign has taken a great leap forward. Following the Tata Steel report, where those with experience of designing and building roads and railways showed how a successful railway could be achieved, the endorsement of the principle by both the community council and Fife Council, via Sestran, has moved the campaign onto a new level.
“Although the design is still at the conceptual stage and therefore there is still a considerable way to go, I very much look forward to seeing the response from the Scottish Government to the submissions and to the carrying out of the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance procedure in the new year.”