Campaigners hoping to see a rail link restored to St Andrews say their bid will not be derailed by a decision to knock back a request for funding.
The St Andrews Rail Link (StARLink) campaign had sought agreement from the north east Fife area committee for £8,000 from the Local Community Planning Budget towards the cost of a Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) feasibility study on connecting the historic Fife town back to the rail network.
However, councillors voted 8-3 against the move – meaning the campaign group will now have to find the money elsewhere.
The group has already secured £40,000 from the Scottish Government Local Rail Development Fund for the study, but a funding gap of £8,000 exists to cover VAT.
The national campaigning organisation Railfuture has already pledged £1,000 but Jane-Ann Liston, from StARLink, said the group was “naturally disappointed” the latest plea for funding has been turned down.
“This money is required to cover a shortfall in the cost of the first two stages the ‘Case for Change’ and ‘Preliminary Options Appraisal’ stages of the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) evaluation of St Andrews sustainable transport, and which has already received £40,000 as one of the 10 successful applicants to the Scottish Government’s Local Rail Development Fund,” she said.
“From the comments made by councillors it seems there was an element of confusion about the precise purpose of the grant, which is a pity.
“The total money available in this fund for the St Andrews wards was over £30,000, which will be forfeited should it not be allocated to projects by the end of March.
“However, StARLink is confident that it can find the money from elsewhere.
“In the meantime, the first part of the STAG ‘Case for Change’ is already under way and results are expected in April.”
Councillors suggested the Local Community Planning Budget should be spent on delivering tangible benefits for the community, while others remain sceptical about the feasibility of the proposed rail link.
St Andrews Labour councillor Brian Thomson argued: “It would be completely different if a railway line or route was still available, like the proposal to re-open the railway line between Leven and the east coast main line. However, the route of the railway line that unfortunately closed in 1969 is not now available, and a completely new railway line would be required.
“A feasibility study commissioned by StARLink around six years ago showed a route going through the the grounds of the Old Course Hotel, the St Andrews Links Practice Centre, the St Andrews Links Trust’s Morris Building, and it would require the diversion of holes on the Balgove and Strathtyrum golf courses.
“Clearly, such a route is not feasible and there’s also the astronomical cost of such a project.
“Whilst I’ve got concerns that the Scottish Government has decided to spend £40,000 on funding a STAG appraisal on such a speculative proposal – particularly given the Scottish Government’s on-going cuts to local government – that decision has been taken, and I’d encourage StARLink to find more appropriate sources of funding for the remaining £7,000 required to allow the appraisal to proceed.”