Rail plans gathering steam after Council approval

Could we see trains back in Leven?
Could we see trains back in Leven?

Campaigners’ efforts to get the Levenmouth rail link back on track are picking up steam after councillors gave transport proposals the green light.

Members of Fife Council’s executive committee, which met last Tuesday, gave the go-ahead to submit the Levenmouth Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) plans to Transport Scotland for assessment.

If the proposals are approved, this will lead to a more detailed analysis and business case development by Network Rail.

The news has been welcomed by campaign group Levenmouth Rail Campaign (LMRC), who are eager to see things progress now that it has the full support of the local authority.

The STAG – a report into how feasible it would be to re-open the five mile stretch from Thornton to Leven – recommends two options to progress the project.

These are: Short-term option A, which would see the integration of bus services at Levenmouth and existing rail provision at Markinch, and long-term option B, which would see the re-opening of the rail line for passenger and freight services.

SNP councillor Brian Goodall raised concerns about the short term option becoming the only long term proposal that is adopted.

He said: “My fear is that it is taking so long to take this forward that we really need an assurance that option A does not change the case for option B.

“We don’t want to do something for the short-term that damages the case further down the line. The Levenmouth rail link is the number one priority for Fife.”

Conservative councillor Dave Dempsey said the unintended consequences of operating a rail link have to be considered. He drew attention to the STAG report which said introducing a Levenmouth rail link ‘may require a review of the Fife Circle’ train timetable.

He said: “This is a whole area which will impact on a huge amount of people.

“A rail link may be acceptable in Levenmouth, but it will not be well received if it causes a reduction in train services elsewhere in Fife.”

But Councillor Lesley Laird Fife Council depute leader, believed both options can progress together: “This is a significant step forward for Levenmouth rail link. The report highlights the strong case for Levenmouth, both in terms of transport connectivity and the wider economic benefits improved transport links would bring.

“It’s vital as we enter this next stage of the campaign, that we continue with a strong united political voice as this has been the hall mark of other successful bids.”

She added: “These two options can be progressed in parallel. This will provide a quick win short-term solution by improving bus-rail access to Markinch and allow re-opening of the Leven branchline in the longer term.”

Eugene Clarke, chairman of LMRC, said: “It’s excellent to see that Fife Council have lent their full support to the STAG recommendations.

“Clearly our ambition is to have the line re-opened and any actions that will make this happen are to be welcomed.

“We hope that the unanimity of purpose among all parties is sustained so that our case continues to be pressed rigorously and effectively.”

He added that while any improvements to the bus services in Leven should be welcomed, it was not a long term solution for the people of Levenmouth.