St Andrews campaigners hoping to reinstate a direct rail line to St Andrews have suffered a setback in their funding proposals.
The St Andrews Rail Link (StARLink) campaign has been lobbying for a new railway line to St Andrews since 1989, but has recently been denied £7,000 of funding by the St Andrews Local Community Planning Budget.
StARLink has previously received £40,000 from the Scottish Government Local Rail Development Fund to carry out a study into the feasibility of establishing a new rail route to St Andrews. In addition to this, the group have been granted £1,000 by the national campaigning organisation, Railfuture, for the project. However, there remains a funding gap of £7,000 to cover VAT costs.
The StARLink convenor, Councillor Jane Ann Liston says that the group is “naturally disappointed” that the request for funding has been refused. This money is required to cover a shortfall in the cost of the ‘Case for Change’ and ‘Preliminary Options Appraisal’ stages of the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) evaluation of St Andrews sustainable transport.
“From the comments made by councillors, especially the Labour and SNP St Andrews representatives, it seems there was an element of confusion about the precise purpose of the grant which to was to fund the first two parts of the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) evaluation, which must be completed by the end of March 2020.
“The total money available in this fund for the St Andrews wards was over £33K, which will be forfeit and clawed back by the central Glenrothes pot should it not be allocated to projects by the end of March.
”However StARLink is confident that it can find the £7K [thousand] from elsewhere. In fact the first part of the STAG ‘Case for Change’ is already underway with results expected in April, and there will be a full report on the campaign’s plans and activities at the AGM in the Scores Hotel on Saturday 23rd February at 10:30, to which all supporters are cordially invited.”
Speaking about the vote against the funding request, Councillor Brian Thompson said, “The Local Community Planning Budget for St Andrews is limited, and I’m firmly of the view that it should be used to deliver direct, tangible benefits for the community, in the short term, rather than to fund fees for studies on highly speculative projects. “Furthermore, at a time when the Council’s budget is under unprecedented pressure – due to continuing funding cuts by the Scottish Government – it’s even more imperative that limited funds are used carefully, on proposals that are guaranteed to have a positive impact.”
Councillor Thompson also added that he is “highly sceptical about the feasibility of the proposed rail link.
”A feasibility study commissioned by StARLink around six years ago showed a route going through the car park of the Old Course Hotel, the St Andrews Links Practice Range and the St Andrews Links Trust’s Morris Building. “Furthermore, vehicular access to the Old Course Hotel, and the Eden, Strathtyrum and Balgove golf courses would be blocked, and it would also require the diversion of holes on the Balgove and Strathtyrum golf courses. “Clearly, such a route is not feasible and, as far as I’m aware, no alternative route has been suggested to date. The astronomical cost of such a project also has to be considered and, given the constraints on public finances, where would the funding come from?
“Whilst I’ve got concerns that the Scottish Government has decided to spend £40,000 on funding a STAG appraisal on such a speculative proposal – particularly given the Scottish Government’s ongoing cuts to local government – that decision has been taken, and I’d encourage StARLink to find more appropriate sources of funding for the remaining £7,000 required to allow the appraisal to proceed.”
In a statement on their website, StARLink say, “The town’s infrastructure cannot cope with the increasing pressures placed upon it, not only from visitors and tourists, but also from students and commuters.
“By offering an attractive alternative to the private car, a railway to St Andrews would greatly alleviate the situation.”