'I don't want a railway' says St Andrews man

In The Herald it was the turn of a St Andrews man to claim that a railway would do no good.

John Birkett, a prolific correspondent in the letter columns of many newspapers, also appears to be labouring under the illusion that what is proposed is a shuttle service along the old alignment. He claims it would need to be twin-track - actually, no it wouldn’t, because the speed capability on a new alignment such as the Tata one plus the inclusion of a passing loop at the St Andrews end, required by Transport Scotland, solves the problem. He also states that the old alignment is a path for walkers and cyclists; that is true of less than one mile of it, but the indicative Tata alignment does not go near it. He also cites the presence of the Old Course Hotel and the requirement to build a new bridge over the Eden as apparently insuperable difficulties. It is interesting to compare what was involved with the Borders line: 45 new bridges, 95 refurbished bridges, disused mine-workings, the demolition of 13 homes and moving the Edinburgh bypass and then replacing it; given all that, the 4 bridges required seems eminently achievable. Like Mr Mathieson he claims that there are plenty buses - possibly but most passengers don’t use them! - and that ‘in a few years’ they will be all electric, while ‘a new railway could not offer such a service economically or environmentally’; funny how he never considers that the railway could be electric, and indeed as the Edinburgh-Dundee line is high on the list for electrification, a new St Andrews branch could be electrified from the start.

Mr Birkett’s mistaken assumption that the railway would be a mere shuttle is further demonstrated when he says that it is claimed that people ‘prefer to change trains than change to a bus’, but changing trains is not proposed, because the services would run through to Dundee and Edinburgh. ‘Another is that St Andrews is a University town,’ he continues, ‘but that means many potential users only live here eight or nine months per year.’ It is hard to believe that Mr Birkett has not noticed that when many, though by no means all, of the students are away in June, July and August, St Andrews is packed with tourists, who would surely prefer to take the train straight into the old. grey town rather than change modes at Leuchars.

Mr Birkett concludes by listing what he thinks how any available money should be spent; it is perhaps not surprising that first on his list is roads.