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Rail projects in North East Fife

This is my fortnightly column which is published first in the Fife Herald, East Fife Mail, and St Andrews Citizen.

Rail is key part of North East Fife’s transport infrastructure. Whether it’s for work or leisure I know many people across the constituency depend of train services as part of their daily lives. Journeys through Fife are surely amongst the most beautiful in the UK. I am determined that we expand and improve services to meet both the cost of living and climate crises.

There is exciting and important ongoing work to expand the railways in North East Fife, with the reopening of the line to Leven scheduled for next year, the campaign for a station in Newburgh, and exploration of options to connect St Andrews.

Following years of local campaigning, an options appraisal has now been completed with a strong case for a station at Newburgh. A short, modular platform could reduce the cost and time of building the station, and the next step is a feasibility assessment by Network Rail.

The reopening of the line to Leven is an encouraging example. Last month saw the completion of the 19 kilometres of track, a significant milestone for the project which is the result of many years of hard work by local campaigners, including Leven, Kennoway and Largo councillor Eugene Clarke who previously chaired the campaign and has worked towards reopening the railway for ten years. The reopened railway has the potential to bring huge benefits to Leven and the surrounding area, and it is great to see a number of other projects underway, as well as the sense of excitement locally.

There is still a long way to go before trains start running, with the stations to be completed and train drivers and staff still to be trained. Recent weeks have also seen concerns over the level of service which will be provided when the line opens, with ScotRail pointing to a shortage of trains and staff. They have been unable to guarantee that the line will open with the two trains per hour which were originally planned. I will do what I can to ensure these problems are overcome and I look forward to the public consultation on a timetable later this year.

Reopening the line to Leven is a very positive step, but I am keen to see further progress to improve services. Electrification of the railway is important to modernise services and bring them up to the same standard as elsewhere in the country, as well as creating a truly green public transport option.

Rail fares are also an everyday expense for many people in North East Fife at a time when the cost of living continues to rise. The SNP and Greens made much fanfare of freezing rail fares when ScotRail was taken into public ownership, but only six months later they increased fares by 4.8%. My Scottish Liberal Democrat colleagues and I support a real freeze to rail fares for the year ahead. That would be a start to improving rail services and helping people who depend on public transport during the cost of living crisis.


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