The Good, The Bad and …

In the Citizen letters, St Andrews resident John Birkett hoped that the Tata report ‘was sufficiently well-founded’ and that the service would indeed be self-financing and would not have too averse an effect upon buses and taxis. J.M. Anderson from Crail, however, was not convinced, because the train from St Andrews to Edinburgh would take longer than that from Leuchars to the capital, the line would be ‘very poor value and quite unnecessary’, and people like himself in the East Neuk would continue to drive to Leuchars because they wouldn’t be able to park in St Andrews. He also claims that the bus service runs every 15 minutes, takes 11 minutes and connects with all rail services, though the 15-minutes frequency only applies during the day, and not during the first half of morning commuting time. Furthermore it is certainly not true that the buses ‘connect’ with all trains; there is no bus from St Andrews to enable passengers to catch the first train south at Leuchars on a Sunday, for example. Allan Chalmers of St Andrews continues the complaint about the loss of ‘a vast number’ of car-parking places, and also is concerned about the fumes from diesel trains along the route and being brought into ‘the heart of the town’; as it is ‘inevitable’ that buses and cars will still be used, he continues, the reintroduction of trains ‘would simply bring an additional and undesirable pollutant to this town.’ (It is surprising that he has apparently not noticed the diesel emissions from lorries, buses and taxis, but let that pass for the moment.) Mr Chalmers ends his letter with the clarion call. ‘It is my hope that our elected politicians and transport officials halt this nonsensical and outrageously expensive proposal in its tracks and that this contaminant land use and air pollutant is kept well out of St Andrews.’

By contrast, Railfuture Scotland’s Ken Sutherland said, ‘There have been studies showing that communities which have a rail link have a whole number of beneficial consequences in terms of socioeconomic and employment opportunities. St Andrews would become a more accessible place. A rail link enhances the portfolio of what a place has to offer.’ He pointed out that house prices in Kelvindale rose as a result of the prospect of proximity to a station, even before the Maryhill line was extended out there. Mr Sutherland described the user group as ‘multifaceted’, including tourists and golfers as well as people travelling to the university for work, study, conferences and business seminars. He noted that, ‘many people who come to Scotland from Europe and North America tend to buy rail rover tickets and if a place is on the network they go there.’ Mr Sutherland concluded, ‘Capital funding is still a major issue but there are ways and means of exploring funding from sources other than the Scottish Government.’

Patrick Laughlin, manager of the St Andrews Partnership identified the two main user groups as being students from all over the world and tourists and said, ‘There’s no doubt there is genuine public and business interest in having a train service. There is a disincentive to people thinking of coming to St Andrews. It’s not easily reached. We all know the bus link from Leuchars is good for what it is but it involves a modal shift between different forms of transport. Having a simplified link, especially if it came from Edinburgh Airport, would be of invaluable benefit. It would help the whole regional economy of Fife.’