Support for Leven rail link is strong

There were a number of speakers at the conference. Pic: George McLuskie
There were a number of speakers at the conference. Pic: George McLuskie

You can travel to Paris or Amsterdam from the Scottish capital in less time than it takes to get from Edinburgh to Levenmouth...

That was one of the main points made at a special conference organised to highlight the benefits of reinstating the Thornton to Leven rail line.

Over 40 people gathered together for Friday’s event at the Fife Renewables Innovation Centre, including Levenmouth Rail Campaign (LMRC) supporters, elected members and business officials.

Notably absent was Transport Scotland; Eugene Clarke, chairman of LMRC, explained that while the body was invited to attend, the decision had been taken to meet with the campaign group under different circumstances.

There were however a number of other speakers on the day, including Councillor Lesley Laird, deputy leader of Fife Council and executive spokesman on economy and planning, rail journalist David Shirres, Alan Mitchell of Fife Chamber of Commerce and Janet Torley of the Federation of Small Businesses.

Throughout the afternoon, stories of local people affected by the lack of a rail link were also read out, cementing the support for the line from Levenmouth residents.

Fife Council is currently in the process of updating the most recent feasibility study, which was discussed by Mr Shirres.

While the report’s first draft states work to re-open the line would cost £78.4m, Mr Shirres said that was ‘not credible’ and over-pessimistic.

During her presentation, Ms Laird told the audience that reinstating the link was about “doing the right thing” in terms of fairness, equality and social justice for those living in Levenmouth.

The deputy leader commented on the council’s dealing with Transport Scotland, and despite several meetings, she said it was still “really, really hard” to get any concrete timetable on how to progress, and claimed the process was: “not clear, not open and not transparent.”

Ms Laird added: “We have had numerous meetings and email exchanges with Transport Scotland but trying to define a timetable has been an issue.

“What will decide whether Levenmouth gets investment or not is the political will to do so.”

Levenmouth is still the largest urban area in Scotland not served by a rail link, and studies have shown job opportunties would increase by 500 per cent.

A spokesman for Transport Scotland said it was willing to consider propsals for new services “where there is clear evidence of benefits” adding officials have been on hand to provide feedback on the recent Fife Council appraisal and would “remain available to provide guidance and assistance as and when required.”