StARLink ‘rail’ against cross-border train plan

Jane Ann Liston
Jane Ann Liston

SUPPORTERS of StARLink - St Andrews Rail Link - have joined the growing list of opponents to a controversial proposal which could see rail passengers on cross-border services forced to change trains at an interchange hub in Edinburgh.

There has been widespread opposition to the suggestion, which is included in the Rail 2014 consultation document on the future of rail services formulated by the government quango, Transport Scotland.

In its response, StARLink emphasise the importance of retaining through-running cross-border services, laying particular emphasis on issues affecting Leuchars as the existing stop for St Andrews, and also propose the university town as an ideal candidate for its reconnection to the rail network.

Responding to the question of cross-border services and should they terminate at Edinburgh Waverley, allowing opportunities for Scottish connections, Jane Ann Liston, convener of StARLink, said: ”Of course they should continue to go north of Edinburgh! We are amazed that this question is even being asked, after the successful campaign over a year ago to persuade East Coast to continue running their services through to Aberdeen and Inverness.

POPULAR

“It is not clear upon which trains the people who claimed that they are little-used north of Edinburgh were travelling. The East Coast and Cross-Country trains are extremely popular with Leuchars passengers, who are mostly travelling to and from St Andrews.

“Terminating cross-border services at Edinburgh would cut passengers by at least a quarter, but there would still be so many extra milling about at Waverley to cause overcrowding. It is not clear whether Scotrail would be able to run services to compensate, or if there would simply be a loss of services.”

A prominent public transport campaigner, Ms Liston told the Citizen that, in her opinion, no additional benefits would acrue from having a hub in the capital.

She added: ”Extended rail journey times, a crowded concourse at Waverley and a loss of passengers cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered benefits, except by bus companies, airlines and car manufacturers!”

CREDENTIALS

Meanwhile, StARLink - which has been campaigning since 1989 to have St Andrews reinstated to the rail network - also highlighted the university town’s credentials in achieving such a goal.

In response to the question on how Transport Scotland should determine what rail stations are required and where, Ms Liston said that new stations could depend upon several factors, such as the catchment population.

She explained that a recent report from the Association of Train Operators suggested that a settlement of 15,000 people would indicate that a station should be provided, as would specific attractions to a particular place, such as a tourist destination or a university.

Ms Liston added: ”It should be noted that St Andrews is a prime candidate, falling into all three categories, and being the only Scottish university town without a railway, as well as an economic generator.

“It should also be noted that the present criteria for re-opening seem unduly pessimistic, and so should be revisited, given that all new openings since 1995, again according to the ATOC report, both in Scotland and in England have attracted many more passengers than were predicted.

“The message is clear. People like travelling by rail, despite all the obstacles the industry throws in their way.”

St Andrews was connected to the rail system from 1852 until 1969, when it fell a victim to British Rail’s indiscriminate cull of branch lines.