The campaign to reopen the Levenmouth rail link has taken a significant step forward after receiving endorsement from the Scottish Government.
The bid to reinstate the five miles of track between Leven and Thornton for both passengers and freight is one of six transport projects for the area to be put forward for detailed consideration over the coming weeks.
Transport Scotland said the project would bring major benefits for the economy and provide access to key destinations for employment, further education, healthcare and social activities.
It was warned, however, that the high cost of providing the line would be a strong consideration in the final decision-making process.
The findings were published by the agency on Friday.
They have been hailed by campaigners who have long insisted reconnecting Leven to the rail network could transform the area.
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Eugene Clarke, Levenmouth Rail Campaign chairman, said: “We welcome this strong backing for the benefits the rail link would bring the Levenmouth community.”
Fife Council has also welcomed the news, with co-leader David Ross describing it as significant progress.
“Fife Council is delighted that our strong campaign, in partnership with the Levenmouth Rail Campaign, to improve access to jobs and education in this area of Fife is now being heard,” the Labour councillor said.
Co-leader David Alexander, who represents the SNP, added: “I am happy to see the completion of this stage of the study.
“We continue to work with local communities and Transport Scotland to develop and complete this important work with a view to reconnecting Leven to the rail network.”
The report is the second of three on improving public transport in Levenmouth.
The final phase will involve detailed analysis of the six options, which also include improving local bus services, improved bus connections to Markinch railway station and more direct buses to places such as Kirkcaldy, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Transport Scotland said several projects could be packaged together to address the area’s transport problems.
The report was prepared by consultants Peter Brett Associates, who spent a considerable amount of time talking to local people about the issue last year.
Labour councillor Colin Davidson, chairman of rail and freight for the South East of Scotland Transport Partnership (Sestran), said it was a positive step towards delivering transport solutions and stimulating economic growth in Levenmouth.
Kirkcaldy SNP MSP David Torrance insisted the case for the rail link is strong, with the potential to benefit businesses as well as residents.
“This option far outweighs any of the others,” he said.
A further six transport options were rejected by Transport Scotland, including proposals for a new passenger rail line from Methil to Markinch and the creation of a “hovercraft triangle” between Levenmouth, Kirkcaldy and Edinburgh.