Despite its “immense importance” to the Scottish economy, its reputation as the Home of Golf and being home to one of the world’s top 100 universities, St Andrews remains one of the largest towns in Scotland without a railway line.
That was the clear message to listeners of John Beattie’s topical lunchtime news show on BBC Radio Scotland from Jane Ann Liston, convener of the STARLINK campaign - St Andrews Rail Link - when she secured a coveted slot on the broadcast’s popular soapbox feature.
An avid public transport campaigner, she was delighted to win the opportunity to present the case as to why St Andrews needs its railway back - and all in 90 seconds.
She told listeners: ”Since losing its station in 1969, St Andrews - one of Scotland’s main tourist resorts and its oldest university town - has been marooned from the rail network with the nearest station now nearly six miles away at Leuchars.
‘‘With a population of around 20,000, including 7000 students, it is one of the largest settlements in Scotland without a railway line.”
She pointed out that it regularly hosts golf tournaments, such as the $5 million Dunhill Links Championship, which ended on Sunday, and most notably, the Open Championship every five years and also features amongst the top destinations of VisitScotland, Scottish Enterprise and Trip Advisor - and yet remains the only Scottish university town, and one of only a handful in Britain, without a station.
Ms Liston said: ”Every day, thousands of commuters travel out, and even more come in, to St Andrews for work. Their journeys help to make the A91 between Guardbridge and St Andrews the busiest road in north east Fife, with the effects of this traffic felt 10 miles away in Cupar.
‘‘All these cars have to go somewhere but, having a mediaeval layout, St Andrews was never built for them.
“St Andrews needs the people, but not their parked cars, which are a visual blight upon its historic heart. Buses are clearly not an attractive option for car drivers, even for the five or six miles to Leuchars, judging by the empty seats on them, although the recently-expanded Leuchars station car park is filled to overflowing every day. On the other hand, evidence suggests that a rail service could attract 70 per cent of car users.”
Campaigners claim that five miles of railway line would bring St Andrews to within an hour’s travel of Edinburgh and only 20 minutes from Dundee.
She concluded: ”It would greatly ease the daily movement of large numbers of tourists, students and commuters, would also benefit the environment by reducing car-generated emissions and - with this basic infrastructure in place - even charter trains could visit St Andrews.”
The rail link between St Andrews and Leuchars was controversially axed in January of 1969.