Full steam ahead for new St Andrews rail link?

April figures showed ScotRail was 98.1 per cent on time. Picture: Craig Stephen
April figures showed ScotRail was 98.1 per cent on time. Picture: Craig Stephen

The signal is about to go up on whether St Andrews can get back on the rails.

Long-awaited results of a feasibility study into a new St Andrews railway have beenofficially unveiled.

Hopes that the university town will once again have a rail connection came under the spotlight during a presentation of the findings of the study before an audience of transport and tourism experts on Friday past, as well as elected representatives and other stakeholders.

The report was commissioned by lobbying group STARLINK - St Andrews Rail Link - with financial support from Rail Future Scotland, St Andrews Community Council and Rail Future UK, as well as from individuals.

Consultant Howard Pack, of Tata Steel UK Rail Consultancy Ltd, gave adetailed report, including -

n A new alignment to the main line;

nAn hourly service to Edinburgh, reaching Cupar in 10 minutes, Dunfermline in 49 minutes and the Edinburgh Airport interchange in 69 minutes;

n A half-hourly service to Dundee, arriving at Leuchars in six minutes, Dundee in 20, and including a stop at Wormit.

In an exclusive interview with the Citizen, convener of STARLINK and long-time public transport campaigner, Jane Ann Liston, said: ”This was a very exciting day for St Andrews.

‘‘The new alignment is a 21st century answer to the transport requirements of St Andrews, with fewer curves, thus enabling much faster speeds than were possible on the early Victorian route.

“The proposal presents an opportunity to radically improve the connections to St Andrews, and also enhance rail services to Cupar, Dunfermline and Dundee, as well as restoring them to Wormit. Also, it would realise the long-held ambition of the tourist industry to make possible direct travel between St Andrews and Edinburgh Airport in just over an hour.”

The estimate for the five miles of track is currently £76 million which, states Ms Liston, “compares very favourably” with the five mile-long M74 extension costing £692 million.

The new alignment branches off in the vicinity 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 - this 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 and hence an integrated transport system.

Ms Liston explained that bringing the line into the town centre will maximise use and also pointed out that the proposed new alignment is significantly further away from the Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort and Spa, than the old one.

She concluded: ”This is an excellent opportunity not only to bring the Home of Golf and Scotland’s oldest university town within the main transport network, but also to improve the environment by reducing car use and I trust that the authorities can take the first steps to make it a reality.”

Supporters of the campaign for the restoration of a rail link to St Andrews - the line was axed more than 40 years ago - are buoyed by the study which comes after almost a quarter-of-a-century of lobbying.

STARLINK maintains that a railway would provide an attractive alternative form of transport for the thousands of commuters in and out of St Andrews and reduce the traffic flow on the A91, which is the busiest road in north eeast Fife.

St Andrews is the seventh most visited Scottish destination after Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen, Fort William, Stirling and Oban, all of which have rail connections. It is also one of Scottish Enterprise’s six designated destinations.

The rail connection to St Andrews was severed in British Rail’s controversial cull of branch lines in 1969.

Since 1989, the STARLINK pressure group has been campaigning with the stated aim of reconnecting the town to the rail system in the interests of convenience for travellers, the alleviation of traffic congestion and a reduction of car generated pollution in St Andrews.