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VIDEO: Historic moment as £116m Levenmouth rail link opens

Public passenger trains begin running on the new line this Sunday.

History has been made with the arrival of the first train into Leven in more than half a century.

The milestone follows the completion of the £116 million Levenmouth rail link, which provides a direct train to and from Edinburgh every hour.

First Minister John Swinney and transport secretary Fiona Hyslop joined overjoyed rail campaigners, community organisations and local politicians for the first trip from Waverley Station on Wednesday morning.

John Swinney opens new Levenmouth rail link.
Mr Swinney with members of Levenmouth Pipe Band. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson

However, members of the public will have to wait until Sunday to get their hands on tickets.

The Scottish Government-funded railway includes two new stations at Leven and Cameron Bridge as well as six miles of double track.

And it has been hailed as having the potential to transform lives and communities.

Mr Swinney officially opened the line and unveiled a plaque at each station.

He said: “This is a day of unbridled joy for the communities of Levenmouth and the Kingdom of Fife.

John Swinney unveils plaque at new Leven station.
The First Minister unveils a plaque after the arrival of the first train at Leven station. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson

“I’m absolutely delighted that after 50 years of this community being excluded from the rail network, we have resolved that today”.

He also paid tribute to members of Levenmouth Rail Campaign, who were instrumental in ensuring the railway’s return.

Rail campaigner says first journey was ‘surreal’

Mr Swinney added: I think the Levenmouth campaigners should understand the significance of what they’ve done.

“To get a capital project of this nature delivered in 10 years is, frankly, extraordinary.

“They were tenacious. They also had formidable advocates in MSPs Tricia Marwick and Jenny Gilruth, who would not take no for an answer.

Allen Armstrong, left, and Ross Bennett of Levenmouth Rail Campaign were on board the inaugural train. Image: DC Thomson.

“There’s your formula.”

Levenmouth Rail Campaign chairman Allen Armstrong was among the 300 or so people on board the first train.

And he described the journey as surreal.

“I can hardly believe all these thousands of hours of volunteer work have paid off,” he said.

“We had a very strong case and we’re delighted it’s come to fruition.”

‘Even better than old Leven train service’

Also making the journey was Albert Nye, 87, from Elie.

He worked on the railway at Thornton in the 60s and was pleased to receive an invitation for Wednesday’s inaugural trip.

“There have been a lot of changes,” he remarked as the train travelled past Thornton junction.

Mr Swinney speaks to local school children at Leven station. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson

Meanwhile, Levenmouth councillor David Alexander, was just a teenager when rail last serviced the area.

And the Fife Council SNP leader declared new Levenmouth rail link “magnificent”.

Mr Alexander regularly travelled to Dunfermline by train to watch football in the ’60s.

He said: “When the trains stopped, we had to get the bus and it took an hour and a half – more than double the time.”

Locals watch the opening of the Levenmouth rail line.
Locals watch the arrival of the first train. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson

Mr Alexander, 69, says the new facilities are far better than the original ones.

“The problem with Cameron Bridge station back then was the stairs were enormous,” he said.

“There were no lifts so if you had a disability you couldn’t get on the train.

“And trying to go on holiday with heavy bags was a nightmare.

“Thankfully these days are gone.”

Levenmouth rail line opening.
Mr Swinney with Jenny Gilruth MSP and David Torrance MSP. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson

And it was a poignant day for Labour councillor Colin Davidson, whose grandad Fred was killed while working on the Leven railway in the 1950s.

He said: “It’s an exciting day and one we’ve been looking forward to but I can’t help thinking about him today too.”

Levenmouth rail link includes £10m of extra benefits

The Scottish Government announced the return of rail to Levenmouth in August 2019.

It marked a huge victory for a campaign which secured the backing of community groups and politicians of all parties.

And it included a further £10m of investment for things such as active travel routes and bus services to and from the stations.

Special train for Levenmouth rail link opening.
The special liveried train for the Levenmouth opening. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson

Supporters say the rail link opens up opportunities for education, leisure and employment for Levenmouth people.

And it’s predicted it will boost visitor numbers by making it easier to travel into the area.

The original Leven railway closed to passenger trains in 1969.

It remained open to freight only to serve Cameronbridge Distillery and Methil power station.

But it closed completely when the power station was mothballed in 2001.