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Joy as work begins on Levenmouth rail link but concern over delays, soaring costs and freight

Allen Armstrong at the site of the old Cameron Bridge station, near Diageo's distillery.
Allen Armstrong at the site of the old Cameron Bridge station, near Diageo's distillery.

Construction work on the long-awaited Levenmouth rail link is finally under way.

And the local community is delighted steps to re-introduce passenger trains to the area are now on track.

However, people who campaigned for many years to reopen the five mile route between Leven and Thornton also have some concerns about the project.

Firstly, the opening date has been pushed back by three months.

Originally targeted for December 2023, it is now more likely to launch in March 2024.

Allen Armstrong is concerned about the Levenmouth rail link delay.

And there are also questions over the location of a freight terminal, as well as changes to the Scotrail timetable.

In addition, the cost has soared since the original £70 million estimate in 2019.

And it is now likely to come in at £116.6m.

The new rail link will bring passenger services back to Leven for the first time in 55 years.

It’s the most populous part of the country without a railway and there are high hopes it will help regenerate the area.

Relief but ‘certain doubts’ remain

Allen Armstrong, chairman of the Levenmouth Rail Campaign group, is relieved the track is finally going down.

And he hailed it as good news for the community.

But, he said, the three issues have cast “certain doubts” over the project.

“The timetable for reopening the line and resuming train services appears to be slipping,” he said.

“Since the August 2019 go-ahead, December 2023 has been the target date.

“Now we hear a revised date is likely to be March 2024.

“It’s disappointing that what seemed like a rather conservative estimate of implementation is further extended.

“Any steps that can be taken to explain and reduce this delay would be greatly appreciated.”

Concern freight terminal could be in Thornton

Talks about creating a freight terminal are ongoing and the rail campaign is firmly in favour.

But there is concern that one of the two sites being considered is in Thornton.

The other is at the former creosote works at Kirkland sidings.

Dr Armstrong said locating a freight terminal several miles away from Diageo, the area’s biggest employer, was difficult to justify.

He said: “The campaign is strongly in favour of maximising the line’s freight potential, an opportunity not available to other recent successful rail re-openings.

“However, we have serious concerns that, if located in Thornton, this would do little to reduce HGV movements, pollution and damage on local roads.

“Local roads connecting Levenmouth to trunk roads are already heavily used and prone to disruption.”

Finally, changes to the Scotrail timetable from May means Perth trains will go via Kirkcaldy instead of Dunfermline.

And the rail campaigners fear this could lead to congestion and impact on journey times.

Dr Armstrong added: “There is still hope that further timetable revisions may mitigate this concern.

“But we are wary of Levenmouth links being placed at a disadvantage from the outset.”

Levenmouth rail link: Delivering jobs, education and tourism

Network Rail’s work includes the removal of the old track bed.

Then a new double track railway will go down before two new stations open at Cameron Bridge and Leven.

And there is scope for tourist and charter trains also using the line.

Bill Reeve, Transport Scotland’s director of rail, said the rail link would bring many benefits.

“Our experience from the highly successful Borders Railway project makes clear the maximum benefits of the railway investment are realised where they are delivered as a package.”

In Levenmouth, the package includes improved bus and cycling routes and other community projects.

The River Leven area will be improved as part of the project.

Meanwhile, Alex Hynes, managing director of Scotland’s Railway, said the construction was a major step towards transforming travel in the area.

“But more than this, it has the potential to improve social and economic conditions and deliver opportunities for jobs, education, recreation and tourism,” Mr Hynes said.

And Fife Council co-leader David Alexander agrees.

The SNP councillor lives in Levenmouth and was involved in the campaign to reopen the rail link.

Now we’ll start to see Levenmouth’s future start taking shape.”

Councillor David Alexander

He said: “We’re delighted work has started to return the rail line to Levenmouth.

“This link will increase employment opportunities, as well as improve access to education, health and leisure services.

“It’s exciting times for Levenmouth.

“There’s been a lot of hard work going on in the background.

“And now we’ll start to see Levenmouth’s future start taking shape.”

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