The bid to reopen the Levenmouth rail link has a serious chance of success, Transport Scotland has confirmed.
In a positive endorsement for the long-running campaign, Bill Reeve, director of rail with the Scottish Government’s transport agency, said the project deserves proper scrutiny.
Speaking at a conference in Methil rounding up the progress so far, Mr Reeve revealed a previous appraisal had over-estimated the costs of reinstating the mothballed line between Leven and Thornton while under-estimating the benefits.
It is now thought reopening the five mile stretch of track will cost between £37 million and £56 million – around half the amount previously quoted and less than half the cost per mile of the successful Borders railway.
Consultants brought in by Transport Scotland to review the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance – or STAG – report produced in 2016 have concluded the document lacks evidence and are working alongside Fife Council to make it stronger.
Paul McCartney, director of transport economics with Peter Brett Associates, said: “We have identified some potential weaknesses with the work which meant it probably wasn’t as robust as it should have been.
“We were asked to fill in the gaps associated with that.
“One of the key issues was limitations in the evidence as to what the transport problems and constraints in opportunities are. That’s a key element of the study.”
Mr McCartney said it was crucial to understand what the issues were in order to arrive at the correct solution.
“We’re not starting from scratch. We’re building on the work that’s there,” he added.
In particular, the consultants will focus on the significant social benefits a railway would bring to Levenmouth, the largest urban connurbation in Scotland without direct access to a rail link.
“There is a very strong focus on the economic aspects in the STAG but less on the social,” Mr McCartney said.
Fife Council’s transportation spokesperson, Councillor Altany Craik, said: “The element we often forget to talk about is the impact on inequality.
“We’re looking to reduce inequality in our society and a rail link would be a step in that direction for Levenmouth.”
The conference heard that if the campaign is successful it should be possible to introduce a half hourly service between Leven and Edinburgh, a journey which would take around an hour.
The consultants will gather as much evidence as possible and will seek the views of local people via telephone and online surveys.
Businesses are also being urged to get involved.