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‘Utter madness’: Rail campaigners react to moves to scrap Fife’s concession scheme

Levenmouth Rail consultation
Eugene Clarke at the site of the new railway.

Rail campaigners have branded moves to axe Fife’s popular concessionary rail scheme “utter madness”.

Members of Levenmouth Rail Campaign say the timing of the recommendation is bizarre, coming so soon after the Scottish Government approved the reopening of the Leven to Thornton line.

Chairman Eugene Clarke fears scrapping the discount could put people off using the new railway.

EXCLUSIVE: Fife’s concessionary rail travel scheme set to be axed

The concession scheme allows people over 60 and those with disabilities to travel off-peak between any two Fife stations for £1.

Fife Council is one of only a handful of local authorities in Scotland to offer rail concessions.

It is thought around 70,000 people in the region benefit as a result – a fifth of the Fife population.

However, it costs the council £375,000 a year to run and a working group has concluded it is no longer value for money.

Councillors will be asked this week to stop the discount and reinvest the money in the Fife Bus scheme.

And it could be scrapped from as early as May if they agree.

‘Short-sighted’

Mr Clarke labelled the recommendation “short-sighted”.

“We know from research that most of the people who come to Leven travel by car,” he said.

“Many said they would come by rail once the line opens but there is a fear removing the concession will put people off.

“Not everyone can afford the train and it seems short-sighted to deny people who would want to take advantage of the new Levenmouth line.”

Mr Clarke added: “A lot of the people who will use the line will come from north east Fife.

“There is an assumption that everyone in north east Fife is well-off but that’s a misconception.

“There are real pockets of deprivation there.

“We’re all delighted the Levenmouth rail line is reopening after so long but it needs to be affordable.”

‘It seems bizarre’

Rail campaigners are currently looking at the facilities the Leven station will need when it opens in 2023.

“One of the things we’re pressing is facilities that meet the needs of older people,” Mr Clarke said.

“That’s things like toilets and accessible platforms etc.

“For one bit of Fife Council to be supportive of spending money on things like that, it seems bizarre another bit of the council is making it more difficult for the very people it’s aimed at.”

The council’s head of assets Ken Gourlay has recommended investing the money saved into the Fife Bus service.

It provides free door-to-door transport for people who cannot use conventional public transport.

There are plans to buy four new vehicles to expand the scheme.

“Whilst a difficult decision to remove the local rail concession scheme, the aim of this review is to achieve best use of the limited funding to meet council objectives, aid recovery, and provide more equitable provision for all Fifers,” Mr Gourlay said.

Councillors will be asked to approve the move when they meet on Thursday.

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