St Andrews & East Fife Local Plan - submission from Starlink

Starlink submission to St Andrews & East Fife Local Plan
The document rightly identifies ‘the lack of a direct rail link into St Andrews’ as a notable ‘missing link’ in the transport network and few would disagree. Also ‘the lack of a main rail link may encourage higher use of private transport means.’ is amply demonstrated by the large number of cars in and around the town. It is also right to draw attention to the undoubted fact that ‘Vehicle emissions continue to be an issue, particularly where new developments across the Local Plan area are dependent upon private cars for access’ (P. 29).
It is, therefore, extremely disappointing to read that reinstating rail services, the one transport method which has a real chance of achieving modal shift, has apparently been ruled out. Amazingly, the construction of a new rail corridor is apparently considered as much of a ‘significant negative environmental impact’ (P. 50) as is that of a road, especially when that factor does not appear to be a problem with the construction of either a St Andrews link road or a Cupar relief (i.e. bypass) road.
• Firstly, a rail corridor takes up much less space than does a road.
• Secondly, once a railway is operating it becomes a wildlife corridor, which a road does not.
• Thirdly, it is a well-observed phenomenon that increasing provision for motor vehicles, whether in the form of new roads or in increased parking spaces, increases the use of said vehicles.
Building a Cupar relief road will doubtless reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions in Cupar town centre, but because of the extra journeys generated it will also funnel more traffic east along the A91, the busiest road in North East Fife, to the detriment of Dairsie, Guardbridge, and St Andrews itself. It is most regrettable that Fife Council persists in treating the traffic problems of Cupar and St Andrews as separate when in fact the two are inextricably linked, synergistically one might say.
It has been observed that car-drivers are more likely to switch to a train than a bus; this was demonstrated in a German transport corridor study (40% as opposed to 7%). It is borne out by the much higher use of all new or re-opened rail services since 1995, according to the Association of Train Operating Companies, and even back as far as 1986 with success of the Bathgate line (usage four times the initial estimate). Other notable openings in Scotland used by many more passengers than predicted include: Larkhall (40% up on projection), Prestwick Airport (used by 30% of air passengers), Laurencekirk (80% above anticipated usage level), Edinburgh Park (more than double the estimated passenger numbers) and Stirling – Alloa (usage three times predicted numbers). The responses to Starlink’s recent questionnaires. corroborate the willingness of car-drivers to use trains. The 1,000 extra houses to be built in St Andrews, meaning at the very least 1,000 extra cars further illustrates the necessity of providing an attractive alternative to car use.
So why has the solution most likely to lead to modal shift apparently been sidelined in favour of vague and unspecified ‘integrated public transport feeder services’ (P. 50) and ‘rapid transit corridors’ (Annex 1 P. 2)? If this means trams, what about the ‘significant negative environmental impact’ required to construct a tramway? If buses, something very different from what is now on offer will be required to persuade drivers to leave their cars behind: at the very least, a dedicated service between St Andrews and Leuchars Station, using fast airport-style buses with ample luggage space, free of charge for rail passengers, deliberately timed to meet trains and wait in the case of late-running. To really be an attractive option for motorists, rather than the bus stopping beside the footbridge not that much nearer to the trains than the car-park, it should cross the tracks and stop on the platform right beside the train (i.e. as the limousines did for the CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) visit in 1997). Otherwise it will remain the case that, as a senior Stagecoach officer said a few years ago, ‘no sane person’ will take a bus from St Andrews to Leuchars Station if they have the option of driving a car. One might also consider how the proposed provision of an extra 100 free parking spaces at Leuchars station will encourage St Andreans to take a bus rather than their car to Leuchars.
Further argument for conventional rail is that changing modes of transport (e.g. bus to train) dissuades people from using public transport much more than does changing trains. There is also the potential of through-running from Edinburgh (or Dundee) straight to St Andrews, which could reduce the journey time between the Capital of Scotland and the Home of Golf to an hour, a goal wholly consistent with the development strategy to ‘further develop St Andrews as a high quality tourist destination’ (Annex 1 P.2).
Finally, on a seasonal note, despite anecdotes about leaves and snow, rail is far less vulnerable to bad weather than is road transport. On the penultimate day of this consultation period, snow had fallen and severely affected the express buses to and from Edinburgh, so much so that the advice from the bus station to would-be passengers was to get to Leuchars and catch a train. Of course there was the small matter of getting to Leuchars in the first place! It is unacceptable that an important destination like St Andrews is remote from the most robust and reliable form of public transport.
What is required is to amend the strategic proposal to improve accessibility by adding after ‘support the provision of strategic transport improvements including Cupar relief road’and a St Andrews railway’. A route, such as that identified by the Scott Wilson FAST study of 1999, including the northbound chord, must be safeguarded from development. It may be that an alternative route should also be safeguarded until the necessary work to identify the best one can be carried out.