Levenmouth Rail Campaign UpdatePublished 17 March 2016 by Colin Howden
Allen Armstrong, Secretary of the LevenMouth Rail Campaign, reports.
The LevenMouth Rail Campaign (LMRC), in its latest form, has been running since April 2014 striving for justice and the extension of Fife Circle services to Edinburgh by reopening the five-mile stretch of line between Thornton to Leven.
The line is fully intact throughout, under Network Rail’s ownership and the first mile has been operational for freight since 2012. This stretch of line was never recommended for closure under the Beeching Report but fell victim anyway. By far the largest community in Scotland without direct rail services (37,500 in Levenmouth + 9,000 in the adjoining southern East Neuk), there is an incredibly strong case for bringing the railway back here. Apart from the large resident population, there is scope for tourism traffic and great potential for freight to serve Diageo’s main Scottish operation, the Fife Energy and Low Carbon Investment Parks, and Methil Docks among others. Since the closure of the major coal industry in 1970s, the area has suffered serious decline, with significant relative deprivation and unemployment. Introducing hourly train service to Edinburgh would increase job vacancies by 500% by bringing growing labour markets into commuting range.
There is huge local support for reinstatement of rail services. Many of the older generation feel aggrieved that the Leven line has not reopened by now, despite new lines reviving elsewhere in the country, often for locations where the rail business case is much poorer. The younger generation is mainly exasperated that their rightful aspirations to study, work and enjoy leisure in the cities of the Central Belt is denied them. Although located in the Central Belt little over a one-hour car drive from Edinburgh, successive surveys show that Levenmouth feels isolated.
LMRC continues to be very active. A major achievement has been to press Fife Council into funding a second STAG Report (the previous one was completed only in 2008), a necessary prerequisite for reinstatement at considerable cost, completed in November 2015. Reopening the rail link is the stated “Number 1 transport priority of Fife Council” so this vital hurdle has been overcome and a strong case reinforced (a Benefit Cost Ratio of 1.31).
LMRC holds meetings at least monthly, organises talks, runs summer roadshows out and about at local galas. We also go out and give talks to guilds, pensioner, business and professional groups. We strong support from Fife Chamber of Commerce, and the Federation of Small Businesses. LMRC produces monthly e- and print bulletins, and maintains a lively web and social media presence
Ahead of the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May, a key task is to convince any and all of the contesting parties of the merit of the case and to seek their support. With limited capital investment required since the trackbed is in place, reinstating services is such an easy win for ANY party coming to power, that we cannot understand why we are still waiting. As other transport investments are announced across Scotland, we have to curb our utter exasperation and sense of injustice and keep making our case. LMRC is not going away, and we will continue to campaign and to mobilise the local community until rail services are reinstated – hoping that may be sooner than later.