CASE for re-opening Fife rail link is now overwhelming, says Eugene Clarke
The reopening of the Levenmouth rail link between Thornton and Leven must be Scotland’s top rail priority over the next five years. The economic, social, environmental and technical case for the project is overwhelming, and clearly justifies the estimated cost of £50 million.
The five-mile stretch of line between Leven and Thornton on the main East Coast line has been largely out of use since 1969 but unlike the re-introduced Borders line, there is little need to purchase land or for major engineering works. The track is intact and is owned by Network Rail. In fact the first mile was carrying coal in 2012.
Levenmouth is by far the largest community in Scotland without direct rail services. It has high levels of poverty and unemployment, poor health and low car ownership. Public transport is poor and makes travel to and from the area expensive and slow.
Levenmouth Rail Campaign has been supported by several objective studies. A new STAG Appraisal (aTransport Scotland requirement) was completed in November 2015 and, like a 2008 STAG study, noted significant positive impacts likely from reinstating rail services. Yet we still await any sign from Transport Scotland that they have a strategy for building/reopening rail lines.
The line would aid businesses throughout Fife and into Edinburgh with the problem of skills shortages; it would benefit tourism; it would bring employment to an area which has suffered badly from changes in industrial structure; it would aid the environment through diverting HGVs off inadequate local roads; and it would ease the logistics of new renewables and energy developments along with big local players such as Diageo.
Reopening the Levenmouth rail link is the single biggest development that could help our community. For politicians it is a no-brainer because it is achievable, affordable and has impact. Until Levenmouth is brought in from the cold and reconnected by rail, claims of a “rail revolution” in Scotland ring utterly hollow.
• Eugene Clarke is chairman of the Levenmouth Rail campaign