A feasability study focusing on reconnecting St Andrews to the rail network has revealed that it is certainly possible to build and run a new railway into the town - and at a profit.
The detailed report commissioned by campaigning group StARLink - St Andrews Rail Link - from Tata Steel UK Rail Consultancy Ltd. also showed that it could operate on an alignment enabling much faster services than were possible on the old Victorian line and deliver many benefits, including creating strong demand for train travel.
While capital funding would be required to construct the line - it is estimated a rail link will cost £76 million - the study found that profits of up to £1.63 million a year would outstrip its operating costs.
The findings of the research were revealed at a presentation in the town’s Best Western Scores Hotel before an invited audience, which included transport professionals, planners, politicians and representatives of the tourist and golf industries and recommended the line be built on a more direct route to the east coast main line than the original railway.
Consultant Howard Pack said there was a strong demand for a rail service, which would result in considerable revenue benefits as well as those of journey times saved and a modal shift from car to train.
Furthermore, connections within Fife would improve, with an hourly service to Edinburgh doubling the rail service to Cupar, which would be reached in just 10 minutes, as well as offering a direct link with Dunfermline just 49 minutes away. The hourly, or even half-hourly, service to Dundee would bring the city within 20 minutes of St Andrews, as well as the possibility of a new station at Wormit.
Trains would also serve Edinburgh Airport via the proposed Edinburgh Gateway interchange which, by making St Andrews much easier to reach, could attract more overseas visitors not just to Fife, but to Scotland as a whole.
The study reviewed the Scott Wilson study of 1999 and considered a new alignment proposed by StARLink.
The original route has been built over at the old station site in St Andrews and at Guardbridge. The railway cutting southwards to Anstruther through the town has been infilled, with part of the station site used as a car park.
The document added that re-use of the original route would also cause disruption to the golf links and buildings and that, essentially, a new route needed to be defined, preferably a shorter one and avoiding the golf course and adjoining hotel.
The new alignment would branch off in the area of Seggie, with two chords to enable north and south running. It goes under the A91, crosses the Eden further south than did the old line, runs first south of the A91 and then under it again - it would mean the road being raised - and north of the A91, including part of the present cycle path, which would have to be relocated.
At the Old Guardbridge Road, the line goes up on a viaduct to enable the road to be kept open for vehicles and, finally, gets back on the old alignment, crosses the road over a new Petheram Bridge and into the old station site, adjacent to the bus station.
Ms Liston said: ”There will be a wider consultation process, which in fact has already begun, with options being worked up in response to particular points raised at the meeting. Once this is complete, it will be up to the transport and planning authorities, such as Fife Council, TayPlan, SESTRAN and Transport Scotland, to take the case forward.”
Local Fife Councillor Keith McCartney said: ”Now that the formal launch of the proposal has taken place, I would encourage all members of the community to study the detail, make an objective assessment of the content and come to a considered view.”
Chairman of St Andrews Community Council, Kyffin Roberts, noted that the community organisation had supported the Starlink campaign since it started more than 20 years ago.
He added: ”Sad to say, after all that time, we are still only talking about a concept report. The latest report is very professional and carried out by a reputable company, but it is only one small step down a very long track and the end of the line is nowhere in sight.”