Activists fighting for the restoration of a rail link to St Andrews have accused Fife Council of double standards following the project’s omission from a key planning document.
Members of the St Andrews Rail Link (StARLink) campaign have reacted with anger after learning that the local authority declined to feature proposals in the local FIFEplan on the grounds that a Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) evaluation has not been carried out for St Andrews.
That’s in spite of the facts that schemes for stations at Newburgh and Wormit and the extension of the Alloa line through Kincardine to Dunfermline , none of which have yet undergone STAG evaluation, were included.
Fife Council said it had left out plans for a St Andrews to Leuchars rail link as there was not a “strong enough” case at this time, noting that it is not included in TAYplan as a key piece of strategic infrastructure or on Transport Scotland’s list of priorities.
The local authority added that its strategy was to promote better public transport connections from St Andrews to Leuchars by bus, and encourage train use by improving car parking facilities at Leuchars station.
Nonetheless, a StARLink spokesperson said local campaigners were “perplexed and concerned” by the exclusion, and described the council’s rationale as “factually flawed”.
“STAG appraisals have not been carried out for the Wormit Halt, Newburgh Station or Dunfermline Lower Line proposals and yet these have been included in FIFEplan — the exclusion of St Andrews on this basis would thus appear to represent a double standard,” the spokesman added.
“Fife Council’s strategy of promoting bus use from Leuchars to St Andrews has demonstrably failed given the preference of the majority of rail passengers for onward travel to St Andrews by private car.
“With an increase of 9,000 passengers at Leuchars Railway Station from 2013/14 to 2014/15 and an average increase of 16,900 per annum between 2004/05 and 2014/15, the car park expansion plan at Leuchars provides neither a cost-effective nor long-term solution.
“Reopening plans for Wormit, Newburgh, Leven and Dunfermline Lower should thus be jointly taken forward with St Andrews; these projects would gain enormous kudos from their association with St Andrews and a joint strategy would surely prove more coherent and cost-effective in planning and implementation terms.
“Based on its status as an international academic, sporting and visitor destination the case for the reconnection of St Andrews to the rail network is overwhelming and in an attempt to clear the apparent impasse a STAG pre-assessment will shortly be commissioned which, we are confident, will wholly prove that case.”
Craig Walker, development plan lead officer with Fife Council, said: “FIFEplan does not preclude a St Andrews rail link proposal being included in the future. However, at the time of preparing FIFEplan it was not regarded that there was a strong enough case for inclusion.
“Other rail proposals included in FIFEplan are different to the St Andrews proposal.
“To date the St Andrews line has not been justified on the grounds of cost and the practicability of identifying a viable and economically justifiable route.
“However, STAG appraisals have been undertaken for the Charlestown Rail Junction proposal (referred to by StARLink as the Dunfermline Lower Line) and the Levenmouth branch line.
“Additionally, proposals for Wormit and Newburgh lie on operational railway lines.”