FifePlan consultation - Starlink submission

Text of Starlink submission to FifePlan:

The local plan should include the option for a new railway line between St Andrews and the main line, and safeguarding the land for same. A possible route can be found at:, but this is indicative only.
This is an update on the latest developments of the Starlink (St Andrews Rail Link) campaign to reconnect St Andrews to the rail network.
From the campaign’s beginning in 1989 the proposal attracted considerable interest and support including from the then MEP Alex Falconer, Sir Menzies Campbell MP, and also John Purvis MEP, plus the MP for Banff & Buchan when he visited in 1992 - one Alex Salmond. However it was only with the advent of Fife Council that the proposal received even cursory attention, meriting a paragraph or two in the Fife and South Tayside study, the Tay Estuary study and the E-Rail report. Unfortunately there were not the resources to properly investigate the St Andrews case in these wide-ranging reports.  However, thanks to money from Railfuture Scotland (and Railfuture UK), the Royal Burgh of St Andrews Community Council and several individuals, in 2010 Starlink was able to commission Howard Pack, of Tata Steel Rail Division, (formerly Corus, formerly part of British Rail), to investigate if it would be possible to re-link St Andrews with the rail network, with direct services to Edinburgh and Dundee from the Home of Golf. The results of that high level concept design study were presented on 11th May 2012, to an audience including representatives of VisitScotland, First Scotrail, Transport Scotland, SESTRAN, the University of St Andrews, the St Andrews Partnership, St Andrews Links Trust, Fife Council, the Scottish Parliament and the Royal Burgh of St Andrews Community Council. The full report is accessible via the Starlink website (see below).
The key points of the report are:
A new route 4.7 miles long between St Andrews and the East Coast Main Line has been identified, arrived at by reviewing the Scott Wilson FAST route, another proposal produced by the geologist and rail expert Richard Batchelor and applying Tata’s Route Optimisation Algorithms; the original route was also considered but discarded early on.
An indicative timetable has been prepared.for an hourly service to Edinburgh and to Dundee, compatible with the existing service pattern.
The service to Edinburgh Waverley takes 1 hr 19 mins and stops at Cupar (10 mins), Dunfermline (49 mins), Edinburgh Gateway/Airport interchange (1 hr 9 mins) and Haymarket.
The service to Dundee takes 22 minutes.
Capital costs are in the region of £76M.
Strong demand shown; low and high demand revenue of £653K and £1.6M p.a. respectively, with passenger numbers 385K and 508K p.a.
Travel time benefits have been estimated at £214K-£269K p.a., from saving 10 mins per journey by doing away with modal change. Modal transfer car to rail benefits, based on 30% switch has been evaluated at £69K-£166K p.a.
Operating costs likely to be positive.
The proposal greatly increases connectivity within Fife and a link to Edinburgh Airport would be a great asset to the tourism industry (St Andrews receives 1M visitors per annum) and also the University. However other places in Fife would benefit: Cupar’s rail services would be doubled and Dunfermline people would find commuting to St Andrews a much more practical option. Also, building a new branch line would require the signalling north of Ladybank to be upgraded, which would increase the capacity of that part of the Fife line. Scottish Gvt has stated aim of electrifying Edinburgh-Dundee therefore St Andrews branch could be electrified from start. Accessing Dundee from St Andrews, without the bottleneck of the Tay Road Bridge, would also be improved.
The Tata presentation marked the start of a consultation, or perhaps more accurately, a gathering of views. The route has been slightly revised, in response to points raised and it has also been suggested that the service to Dundee could be half-hourly and include a stop at Wormit.
The ‘consultation’ then proceeded as follows, contacting the following organisations:
Royal Burgh of St Andrews Community Council - agreed to continue support and to facilitate rest of consultation. In addition they wrote in December to the Scottish Government advocating the St Andrews Railway as a project of national importance for inclusion in NPF3.
Sir Menzies Campbell MP - briefed in June 2012 and still supporting principle.
St Andrews Partnership - neither for nor against but facilitated exercise by urging responses via Facebook and Twitter. A recent Visitor Survey (published February 2014) commissioned by them shows that the number of visitors arriving by car, both private and hired, has increase since 2010, despite the increased frequency of buses between Leuchars and St Andrews.
StayinStAndrews (hotels and guest houses) - cautious but welcomed prospect of investment in transport infrastructure.
St Andrews Merchants’ Association - also cautious and welcoming investment; asked for a multi-storey car-park, which has been included in the revision - extra £1.5M.
St Andrews Preservation Trust - no response so one must assume no objection.
University of St Andrews (Vice-principal and environmental manager) - supports the principle and have shared information from the latest travel survey; initial results confirm the potential for significant use of a rail service both by students and staff: e.g. 4.7% students go home most weekends, 2% commute daily, more students take train than bus to go home, more staff take train than bus for work purposes.
Old Course Hotel (General Manager) - cautious, only concern is effect upon hotel entrance, which is recognised and addressed in report - taking matter to Board - no further response.
Guardbridge Community Council - quite happy and welcome the possibility of reduced traffic through Guardbridge.
St Andrews Links Trust (Director of Finance) ‘can see no benefits at all’ in the reinstatement of a railway. Particular concerns: new storage facility (‘no alternative location’), the Strathtyrum and Balgove courses (‘no room to relocate the affected holes’), and the relocation of the access road (‘implications for HGV deliveries’).
Later modified to - ‘the Trust would be opposed to the Starlink proposal for the route as presently proposed due to the severely damaging impact it would have on the Trust's courses and facilities and we can see no benefits at all from that route. It is probably not necessary for the Trust to comment on the desirability of a rail link to St Andrews, if a viable routing could be found which did not impinge in any way on the Trust.’
Strathkinness Community Council (Chair) - no objection, now that access road maintains vehicular access to Kincaple and Strathkinness.
University of St Andrews Students Representative Council (Townsend representative) - support principle.
Fife Council Transportation officials support the principle and agreed to ask SESTRAN to carry out the STAG exercise. They have written to SESTRAN recommending the inclusion of the railway in NPF3.
In November 2012 the consultants presented their findings to the Chartered Institute for Logistics and Transport (CILT) Scotland. These were well-received and as a result an enthusiastic article was published in their professional journal.
In addition Transport Scotland have been encouraging and First Scotrail said in March 2013:
‘ScotRail has informally advised industry partners that the Tata report forms a credible base upon which a STAG appraisal can be developed and we will be happy to reiterate this going forward.’ They expressed a hope that, as a result of a presentation made last year to the North East Fife Area Committee of Fife Council, a dialogue with SESTRAN and Transport Scotland would be instigated.

Earlier this year, the then-Transport Minister Keith Brown MSP was briefed on the campaign, at a meeting attended by MSPs Willie Rennie and Rod Campbell and Cllr Tim Brett of Fife Council, as well as myself as Starlink convenor. The Minister stated that Regional Transport Partnerships and local authorities had money to carry out STAGs, although I understood that the only money SESTRAN has is what it receives from its constituent councils, and Fife Council says it does not have the £100K required for the evaluation. I was concerned that the Minister appeared to consider the case for a St Andrews railway to be of equal merit with every other rail and road improvement campaign, and reminded him that St Andrews was an economic generator, major tourist destination, university town and Home of Golf.

More recently, a useful discussion was held with Nigel Wunsch of Network Rail, who agreed that the STAG evaluation was the next step and that, were SESTRAN, as regional transport partnership, to consider a St Andrews railway to be of strategic importance to the area, then they might be prepared to undertake the STAG. A subsequent meeting with SESTRAN resulted in a possible pre-STAG investigation in the form of a more robust investigation into the transport methods people are using to get in and out of St Andrews.

The Fife Structure Plan 2001 included a statement that land would be safeguarded for a railway and a station, although these were not site-specific, as is the nature of structure plans. It was anticipated that the subsequent local plan would identify a site but this did not actually happen. As it is not apparent that since 2001 the traffic pressures on St Andrews have alleviated, the case for a railway not only still exists but it has become stronger. So far, TayPlan’s response has been that they cannot include the railway in the structure plan because no STAG has been carried out. At the recent consultation in St Andrews, TayPlan officials claimed that there were no transport officers present because transport in NE Fife comes under the auspices of SESTRAN so they could do nothing. There is therefore currently a hiatus, with one body claiming that another organisation has to take the initiative, and vice-versa, so should SESTRAN manage to carry out their proposed transport investigation that should help unblock the log-jam..

There has perhaps been a tendency to view the campaign for a railway to St Andrews as an expensive alternative to the buses between Leuchars and St Andrews, in effect a shuttle train rather than a shuttle bus. However it is much more than that; the Tata proposal is centred around direct trains from St Andrews to Edinburgh and Dundee, including stops at Cupar, Dunfermline and Edinburgh Airport interchange. This would halve the public transport journey time between St Andrews and Cupar, while doubling the latter’s rail service to Edinburgh, reduce the journey time to Dunfermline by a third and bring Edinburgh Airport to within an hour and a quarter of St Andrews. At present, the University of St Andrews sends cars all the way to the airport to collect visiting academics, as it is not considered appropriate to ask them to take a train to Leuchars then change to a bus. There is a propensity for car drivers to take a train if there is one but they tend to eschew a mere bus. It should be noted that, despite the greatly increased service between St Andrews and Leuchars, just 15% of rail passengers actually use it (Fife Council 2009), whereas 73% come by car. It is therefore not surprising that the official car-parking provision at Leuchars Station, already increased twice in the past 20 years, is regularly full early in the morning, with nearly 50 cars parking along Station Road and others risking fines by parking illegally outwith the designated spaces. Clearly, the bus service is not attractive enough for these drivers and it would be interesting to find out why. However, this is perhaps not surprising, considering that back in 2005 a Stagecoach official stated baldly that 'no sane person' needing to catch a train at Leuchars would do so by bus if they had access to a car. The increased bus service does not appear to have reduced the number of cars travelling in and out of the town either, according to the A91 traffic counter . It should also be borne in mind that until comparatively recently, the powers-that-be were still insisting that all Alloa needed was a better bus service from Stirling, rather than a railway; the usage of the train, three times higher than anticipated, has given the lie to that claim.

The Royal Burgh of St Andrews Community Council are about to contact towns served by branch lines, such as North Berwick, Milnagavie and Alloa, to ask what the railway brings them and conversely what would happen were it to be withdrawn. It is difficult to find a rail-connected settlement similar to St Andrews with which to draw comparisons - well may the local people claim, as they do, that ‘St Andrews is unique’ - but looking at Troon and Helensburgh, which are of similar size and a similar distance from a major employment area, we find that 16% of Troon citizens travel to work by public transport (11% by train, 5% by bus) as do 20% of Helensburghers (14% by train, 5% by bus). The percentages for St Andrews are 10%, (2% and 7%) respectively.

The key reason that the St Andrews case merits closer examination is that it is an attractor of employment and opportunity. The concept of a ‘turn up and go’ railway enabling people to travel easily to do business or study in adjacent settlements is seen as a major driver of growth and employment. The other Fife towns, such as Cupar and Dunfermline, are not attractors but suppliers of people, as is Dundee. The improved connectivity which a railway to St Andrews would bring would benefit them all. Furthermore, with its world-class university, St Andrews has the basis of a knowledge industry which, with improved transport links, could attract start-up businesses and research institutes just as Cambridge does. This would bring money into St Andrews and therefore the Fife economy would benefit; barriers to prosperity would be broken down and success would be built upon. Already, a saving of ten minutes per journey, such as the Tata study has calculated a direct railway would bring St Andrews, has been calculated to save hundreds of millions of pounds over just a few years between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and York, hence the Trans-Pennine electrification project. The difference between it and St Andrews is purely one of scale. Having to travel by train for about an hour and then trundle along the last 5-6 miles on a bus is hardly an encouragement to improving economic connectivity. With proper transport links, St Andrews could drive a knowledge-based economy. The STAG evaluation is critical, however the remit must be economic connectivity and the value of economic growth.

It is appreciated that there are many transport schemes and campaigns, and there is doubtless merit in all of them. It is also clear why schemes apparently requiring little additional infrastructure are seen as attractive, though using those criteria the 30-mile Borders line would still be merely an aspiration. However, reconnecting St Andrews to the rail network (less than 5 miles) is one scheme which is likely to generate wealth for the surrounding area and the wider economy in general, which must surely be an argument in at least getting it on the list for further investigation, in the form of a STAG evaluation.

4 stages of design - the Tata study is only the first stage, the concept design, to be followed by outline design, detailed design and final design.
On the A91 between Guardbridge and St Andrews there have been 4 fatal accidents in past 5 years.
Stirling-Alloa re-opening had led to "increased economic growth  & inward investment, improved community pride & confidence, created social benefits in education and employment, promoted regeneration, reduced congestion & emissions & promoted social inclusion."
University of St Andrews travel survey carried out 2012-13:
*Student Travel Survey*
            42% of students travel home at least once or twice per semester
            4.7% travel home most weekends
            2% travel home most days (i.e. commuting)
            44.7% of students use the bus to access the train
            46% rarely or never use the bus
            32% of students travel by train between home and University during the year
            21% travel by bus between home and University during the year
*Staff Travel Survey*
            1.8% of staff take the train to work
            8.9% take the bus to work
            20% of staff use the train at least once a month for work purposes
            13% use the bus at least once a month for work purposes
Diesel train - 74g CO
2 per passenger km
Electric train - 54g CO
2 per passenger km
6 mile journey
            train 0.5kg CO
            bus 1.3kg CO
            Car (single occupancy) 3.5kg CO2
Cost £76M (compare M74 extension £692M, also 5 miles)
Option for additional storey (50 & 75m) on Petheram Bridge car-park if more parking required - additional £1.5M
Possible sources of capital funding
            Green Bank - supports green infrastructure projects.
            Land value uplift from developments within a mile of proposed station; (Professor George Hazel of Edinburgh Rail interested)
            Open in 2010 generated more than £40M more than anticipated - some of that money from its subsequent quinquennial visits could be set aside for railway line.
Tata Steel Report (accessed via Starlink website)