Signal concern over proposed St Andrews rail link report

Labour councillor for St Andrews, Brian Thomson.

Labour councillor for St Andrews, Brian Thomson.

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A Fife councillor has raised concern over the content of the recently published report on the feasability of re-instating St Andrews to the rail network.

While welcoming the principle of encouraging more sustainable forms of transport, Councillor Brian Thomson has voiced reservations about the viability of some of the proposals.

In particular, he has highlighted several major issues which he maintains should be addressed before the planned multi-million pound initiative goes any further.

The Labour councillor is urging the local community to read the report which was commissioned by StARLink - St Andrews Rail Link - to define the case for a railway service to the town, look at an optimised route alignment for a new railway, and the journey time and business case that could support it.

Speaking exclusively to the Citizen, Councillor Thomson said: ”StARLink has been promoting the case for re-establishing a rail link to St Andrews for 23 years, and the publication of the report is clearly a significant milestone in its campaign.

“I was unable to attend the recent presentation given by the consultants, Tata Steel. However, I have subsequently had the opportunity to read the detailed report and, while I support the principle of encouraging more sustainable forms of transport, it raises a number of major issues which should be addressed before the proposed project proceeds any further.”

Particular concerns in the report are:

n It appears that it is proposed to site a new station on the existing embankment between the Petheram Bridge car park and Windmill Road. However, no additional car parking is proposed to serve the station;

n The report proposes a viaduct, approximately 145-metres long, adjacent to the 17th green of the Old Course and Station Park, but no indication of the height of the viaduct is given, or its likely visual impact. It would have to be assumed that it would be of sufficient height to allow vehicles to access the Old Course Hotel;

n An embankment is proposed that would take up a significant portion of the Old Course Hotel’s car park, and block its existing entrance;

n It is proposed that the road serving the Eden, Strathtyrum and Balgove Courses, St Andrews Links Trust offices, the golf practice centre, the R&A’s research and testing centre, and the links storage facility currently under construction, would be either closed or diverted;

n The research and testing centre and the new storage facility would have to be demolished and relocated, while the road that cuts across the Balgove Course and serves as an access to temporary car parking during the Open Championship and other major golf tournaments, would be closed.

n The second, third and fourth holes of the Balgove Course, and the 12th hole of the Strathtyrum Course, would have to be relocated.

n The busy junction at Edenside, which links Strathkinness with the A91, would be closed.

Councillor Thomson added: ”Some of the costs, for example the £100,000 identified for service diversions, are extremely low, and no VAT has been applied to any of the costs.

“Some of the proposals contained in the report appear to be clearly unviable, and I would urge all members of the community to take the opportunity to read it and reach their own conclusions on its content.”

Meanwhile, StARLink has welcomed a decision of St Andrews Community Council to set up a rail sub-committee to oversee the consultation with local organisations about the proposals contained in the report.

Campaign convenor Jane Ann Liston, who is to be co-opted to the sub-committee, said the course of action fitted very well with the community organisation’s statutory remit to ascertain the views of their community and represent, those views to public authorities.

She added:”The community council endorsement is extremely valuable and their expertise will be very helpful in determining the scope of the consultation.

‘‘It is also highly appropriate, as they have supported the principle of a new rail link to St Andrews since the start of the StARLink campaign in 1989. I look forward to getting started and moving the project a few steps nearer becoming reality.

“Since the presentation of the Tata report’s findings, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. It should be remembered, though, that this is a concept design and, as such, is likely to evolve, and already options are being worked up to take account of points made at the presentation.”

The report can be accessed via the Starlink website at www.starlink-campaign.org.uk where comments can also be made.