Citizen correspondence ping-pong

The St Andrews Citizen letters column has been the site of a verbal jousting match about the railway, apparently involving 3 people but there were actually only two.

The first letter appeared on 8th March, the same edition where it was noted that a railway could help solve the town’s parking problems. D. Rayling, a name which has previously appeared in these pages, apparently took issue with the Scottish Liberal Democrats failing to mention buses when urging construction of a new railway line to St Andrews. (True, nor did they mention hovercraft, ferries or aeroplanes - tsk, tsk.) He then praised the North East Fife councillors for refusing the recent grant application and dismissed the scheme as ‘totally impracticable and completely unnecessary’.

The next week, 15th March (beware the Ides), StARLink treasurer Richard Batchelor responded, stating that a NIMBY attitude will not help the parking situation, and drew attention to the fact that Cllr Brian Thomson, the St Andrews Labour councillor who successfully moved to deny StARLink their match-funding, is a member of the Links Management Committee and could therefore be deemed to be prejudiced, because a theoretical route could impinge upon St Andrews Links property. He then turned to D. Rayling, and wondered whether his hostility just might be due to his proximity to a hypothetical alignment. Mr Batchelor then reminded readers that the Scottish Government funding for the study currently under way is for a St Andrews sustainable transport appraisal, which must consider all possible solutions and is not predicated upon any particular route.

So far, so good. However, right next to this letter was a missive from our friend Allan Chalmers of St Andrews, replying to D. Rayling’s question about why political parties (he cited the SNP and Liberal Democrats) were supporting the railway campaign and concluded it was to ensure local press coverage and protect their egos, wondering when Labour, the Conservatives and Greens would also announce their support. What Mr Chalmers doesn’t appear to have noticed is that StARLink already has been endorsed by representatives of these parties notably MSPs Claire Baker, Dean Lockhart and Mark Ruskell.

The third round on 22nd March (keep awake at the back, please!) again featured an epistle from D. Rayling, apparently confusing the Links Management Committee with the Links Trust and quoting a
Citizen article from 2012 to the effect that the Links Trust had said they would oppose a railway because of its effect upon their property, then claiming that (a) there is no feasible route and (b) there are plenty buses. It is not clear how he can assert the first with any certainty and also has perhaps not noticed that most rail passengers at Leuchars simply do not use these buses, abundant though they be. The eponymous D. Rayling then concludes by requesting a route map of the proposed line plus some sort of comparison of prices between a railway and the current road options.

Fortunately, Mr Batchelor was more than up to the task, and on 29th March a short missive from him appeared, pointing out that as the appraisal will consider all transport solutions to the town’s traffic problems, which may or may not include rail, and that any route would be determined by engineers and planners, there is no finalised route at this stage and it would be misleading to suggest that the present study was based upon one.

It is not clear whether that marks the end of this duel, and it is indeed a duel because back in September identical letters casting doubt upon the rail campaign appeared in the
Courier, Scotsman and St Andrews Citizen. The first two bore the name of Allan Chalmers, while that in the Citizen was subscribed D. Rayling. I leave readers to deduce what the relationship between these two correspondents might be.

‘I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter …’