RECONNECTING one of Scotland’s largest towns to the rail network would cover its operating costs, according to a new feasibility study.
A five-mile spur between St Andrews and the east coast main line in Fife would cost £71 million and provide faster journeys than by road. Campaigners who commissioned the report hailed it as a major boost towards reopening a railway to St Andrews – population 17,000 – after a gap of 43 years.
The move comes amid a boom in rail travel, with passenger numbers at their highest since the 1920s and ScotRail’s total reaching a record 81.1 million in the year to March.
New lines have opened in the last seven years to Alloa in Clackmannanshire, Larkhall in South Lanarkshire and between Edinburgh and Glasgow via Bathgate and Airdrie.
In addition, the Borders line, Scotland’s most ambitious new route to date, will involve 30 miles of new track between Edinburgh and Tweedbank, near Galashiels, which has a smaller population than St Andrews.
The St Andrews report, by consultants Tata Steel Projects, recommended the line be built on a more direct route to the east coast main line than the original railway.
This could enable passengers to travel between Edinburgh and St Andrews in around one hour and 20 minutes, which campaigners said was faster than by car. St Andrews-Dundee trips would take about 20 minutes.
The report said the proposed service showed a “strong demand”, with benefits including faster travel and drivers switching from road to rail.
The Jane Ann Liston, convener of the St Andrews Rail Link Campaign (Starlink) which commissioned the report, said: “As a major economic generator for Scotland, an important tourist destination and Scotland’s oldest university town, it has been apparent for years that St Andrews needs better transport infrastructure to cope with the large numbers of visitors, commuters, students and golfers who travel in and out of it every day. The report greatly advances the case, because transport experts have looked at the question of reinstating a railway to St Andrews and concluded it can be done and there is significant demand for it.
“There is now justification for Transport Scotland, [transport co-ordinating body] Sestran and Fife Council taking the matter to the next stage.”
A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “The proposals must be discussed and an appraisal considering all transport options, not just rail, carried out.”