There is “optimism” over plans for a new railway station in Dunfermline as part of the town’s expansion.
Transport Scotland confirmed it would consider a new station at Halbeath as part of its investment programme for the next two decades.
It was revealed as councillors agreed to submit a bid for £16.5 million of Scottish Government funding towards transport infrastructure in Dunfermline as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland Region City Deal.
Level crossing removed
The project will include a new link road to the north of the town.
It will also see the level crossing at Kingseat Road, Halbeath, removed and a new rail bridge built over the tracks.
And Fife Council service manager John Mitchell told councillors that Transport Scotland had asked for details about a potential new railway station at Halbeath as part of its current Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2).
“In terms of Halbeath and a station, that’s being considered in that strategic piece of work,” said Mr Mitchell.
“We’ll see what the outcome of that is.
“Maybe there’s an element of optimism that they’ve asked for the details of that to be included. Hopefully it is.”
‘Robust business case’ needed
Transport Scotland said proposals for new stations, or reopening old ones, would be considered.
But Fife Council would need to argue the case for a new Dunfermline railway station at Halbeath.
If Fife Council’s appraisals provide robust strategic business cases we will consider them for potential further funding or support through our rail pipeline process.”
A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “Fife Council were awarded £170,000 through the Local Rail Development Fund (LRDF) in August 2018 to carry out appraisal studies on cross Forth transport opportunities.
“Fife Council recently completed their initial options appraisal, the second of the three appraisal stages in the LRDF process. An option contained within their appraisal work to date is for a rail halt at Halbeath.
“While it is too early to say if this rail halt will be considered for re-opening as part of this appraisal process, if Fife Council’s appraisals provide robust strategic business cases we will consider them for potential further funding or support through our rail pipeline process.
“The provision of a rail station at Halbeath will also be subject to further appraisal as part of our second Strategic Transport Projects Review.”
The link road and western distributer road also planned will serve major developments.
These include around 8,000 new homes, five primary schools and employment land.
The government funding will be allocated over a 15 year period.
As a result, the council will have to make separate funding bids each five-year parliamentary term.
At a meeting last week, councillors were told by a council officer the funding was not in doubt because it was part of the city region deal.
Liberal Democrat councillor Tim Brett raised the issue of environmental impact assessments.
A strategic environmental assessment in relation to the scheme was last carried out at least five years ago.
“We have asked that all papers coming to committees should have an environmental impact assessment. And very clearly, this is a major development,” said Mr Brett.
He was told this was addressed by the fact individual planning applications are subject to environmental impact assessments.
Mr Brett went on to ask about the possibility of a new Dunfermline railway station at Halbeath.
‘Near misses’ at Halbeath level crossing
Labour councillor Helen Law welcomed the decision to decommission the level crossing at Halbeath.
She said: “This is a very welcome development to know that this is all secured now.
“From the very first public consultations on the proposed expansion of Dunfermline to the north and to the south west, the main thing that folk were raising were the roads.
“The existing roads would not have been able to take such a massive development.
“The main thing for me is this route will not only service that whole development, but it will mean that we won’t have the level crossing at Halbeath.
“As we know, level crossings are very dangerous. There have been a lot of near misses.
“I think this is all very positive for Dunfermline.”