Full steam ahead for rail journeys around the Forth after 85 years

A steam train on the Forthside rail line near the village of Culross in Fife. Photograph: Mark Walker

A steam train on the Forthside rail line near the village of Culross in Fife. Photograph: Mark Walker

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ScotRail is to run steam trains on a scenic Forthside line for the first time, which campaigners hope will boost moves to restore passenger services after nearly 90 years.

They believe this month’s two special excursions along the Dunfermline-Alloa route will give travellers a taste of potential future commuting.

The decision by Scotland’s main train operator to run the services is expected to gain far greater publicity 
than past trips by heritage firms.

Regular passenger trains last ran in 1930, with the line used latterly by freight trains taking coal to the Longannet power station near Kincardine, which closed in March.

Ministers have agreed to fund half the cost of a transport study of the line in the wake of the closure.

Track upgrading would be required to improve ride quality for passenger trains.

The route could become part of a “Forth Circle” linking Edinburgh, Fife and Stirling, like the Fife Circle loop.

The steam trips on 13 and 20 August will start and end in Edinburgh and cover both circles.

They will be hauled by the locomotive Royal Scot, which was built in 1927 for the London, Midland and Scottish Railway.

Paul Tetlaw, a rail campaigner for public transport lobby group Transform Scotland, said: “The trains will pass through the historic waterside village of Culross and passengers will be able to see for themselves how easy it would be to visit by train.

“Locals along the route will wish the special steam trains were regular trains, allowing them to travel directly to Edinburgh or Glasgow.

“The Borders Railway has shown the popularity of new rail services and its new stations hugely outperformed the projected passenger numbers.”

Martin Keatings, organiser of the Forth Rail Link campaign, said the trips would “allow the public to reflect on what was lost when the line was decommissioned while at the same time thinking of what it could be again”.

The transport study, costing up to £100,000, will be launched by the Longannet Task Force next month and be completed next spring.

Fife Council deputy leader Lesley Laird said: “The study shows the task force is committed to maximising the sustainable use of the transport network serving Longannet and the sub-region. This includes opportunities for passenger rail movement along the Alloa-Dunfermline line.”

A spokeswoman for the ScotRail Alliance, which includes track owner Network Rail, said: “We’re thrilled to offer a unique steam experience from Edinburgh across the Forth Bridge through Fife and Stirling. It will give people a chance to appreciate some fantastic scenery from the wonderful setting of a vintage steam train.”

“The line would require extensive works before it could support a regular passenger service.”

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