Fife Rail Network

On 13 October 2015 it was my pleasure to lodge before the Scottish Parliaments Public Petitions Committee, the Forth Rail Link Petition (source: here) calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to release funding for and establish passenger rail platforms at Crossford; Cairneyhill; Torryburn; Valleyfield; Culross and Kincardine; thereby linking Stirling to the Fife Circle.

Martin Keatings and Lewis Akers appearing before the Scottish Parliament Public Petitions Committee.

Later that year I was called to appear before the committee at Holyrood. Since then the proposal put forward has been a hotbed of conversation, investigations into re-opening the line forming part of the incumbent government’s manifesto pledge from the 2016 Holyrood Elections as well as being reported in Local and National Newspapers. The proposals have since been passed over to the Longanet Taskforce.

Since then I have had the pleasure of speaking with other campaigns in the Fife Area with a similar aim and mission, to re-establish rail services in Fife. However, I have concerns with regards to plans being watered down. As I was the original instigator of trying to re-establish rail services through West Fife & the Villages, it is my sincere hope that if elected in May I will be able to push for proposals to go ahead.

My advocacy for other programmes in Fife is also well known, including but not limited to the Levenmouth Rail Campaign and the St Andrews Star Link, all laudable goals with real-world value for Local communities in Fife.

It is all too easy to try to equate pounds, shillings and pence to an idea it terms of its construction and/or maintenance costs, but the fundamental fact of the matter is that transport infrastructure is always underestimated in terms of the economic value to an Area.

As someone who has family in the Leven are and indeed in St. Andrews and as someone who tries to keep his carbon footprint down, I often travel via public transport. I am constantly dismayed by the lack of transport capacity in and around West Fife & the Coastal Villages but indeed my concerns extend outward to the whole of Fife. Being someone who travels regularly to Methilhill by bus, I can say it is probably the most disconcerting journey I make. It can take hours to be able to travel from my Village in Cairneyhill, no more than 30 miles northbound. With changes in Dunfermline and Glenrothes to reach my destination.

When it comes to the larger cities of Fife, transport is easy, but interconnect between outlying villages and the larger cities can be a nightmare, becoming further complicated if you are going from one outlying village to another at the other end of Fife. Is it any wonder that our roads are congested due to people having no choice but to take their cars everywhere they go and our outlying villages being passed over for real contracts and investment because, in terms of infrastructure, they just aren’t that attractive to companies.

This needs to stop, West Fife & the Villages can no longer afford the ever increasing number of cars on our roads for general commuting, it can no longer continue to absorb the damage being done to road surfaces and the increased risks of vehicle collisions. With planning permissions granted by Fife Council to build more and more houses, we find ourselves on a very real possibility of morning and evening gridlock as the outer villages surround Dunfermline continue to expand. We need a viable option to combat that. Furthermore, it is not acceptable to continue to give the larger cities a leg up on investment opportunities.

When it comes to our transport infrastructure in Fife, the council has taken their eye off the ball. Companies looking to invest in Fife, people looking to buy homes in Fife and house builders looking to build homes in Fife don’t just look at one small area. They look at Fife as a whole and as a consequence, it is easy to be turned off by the fact that Fife’s infrastructure is nowhere near what it should be. Poor connections from village to city and from village to village effect the local economy, not just of those villages but of the larger towns and cities because people may not be able to afford house prices in central areas, but the transport is poor in the villages.

Each year we take a chunk of our potential Fife wide revenue out of the equation as students relocate for University or workers relocate for employment because the commute from Fife to other areas is simply too strenuous. If they are not living here, they are not spending here and that is detrimental to our economy as a whole.

However, let us come to the crux of the matter, Fife Council has made some bad choices in terms of Road Infrastructure of late. Whether it be the mess of a Road system in Central Dunfermline with a roundabout which makes no sense, a taxi rank where exiting taxi’s need to turn left instead of right because someone put a barrier in the way, or simply the continuous stream of traffic lights that grind the town to a halt. Kirkcaldy & Glenrothes, just to name a few, they each have their quirks of a road system.

If homeowners, investors & businesses look at Fife as a whole, then the council needs to look at Fife as a whole. The individual parties need to stop the transport tribalism, the funnelling of money into the infrastructure where they can win the most votes. This short-sighted and narrow view of individual areas of Fife is hurting us all and it needs to stop. A Fife-wide transport strategy needs to be put front and centre. If National Government will not step up, then the council needs to. Fife needs an interconnected strategy to ensure fast and efficient transport regardless of where you are in Fife. Those transport routes can breathe new life into areas which are continuously ignored, bringing new trade, investment, people with skills and allowing people to stay in Fife. Workers from the Larger cities commuting from Fife rather than moving from Fife, ensuring their money is injected into our Local Economy and boosting jobs in the local area. A proper rail system, matched and coordinated with buses would ensure arteries to carry new opportunities to each part of the Kingdom. This is not a plan of compromise, nor of half measures, let’s speculate to accumulate, let’s get our rail up and running without half measures and compromises which we will have to re-visit in the future.

It’s not good enough to say we will look at the Forth Rail Link, we will look at Levenmouth Rail and we will look at St. Andrews. What we need to be saying is we need these lines open and soon.

Things extend further when you look at the brand new Queensferry bridge, due to open shortly, constructed because its predecessor was no longer able to handle the capacity. A long-term shutdown for repairs proved the point. Rail in Fife could ultimately save on repair and maintenance costs for all of the bridges across the Forth. As Fife expands and as our roads become businer., a proper rail network in Fife would pay dividends, reducing the strain on our roads and on our bridges, that in of itself is worth getting rail back up and running.

So true is it a force for industrial complexes, putting freight rail back on target and reducing the number of lorries on our roads freeing capacity for individual drivers.

I want to continue what I started, pushing for massive investment in Fife’s infrastructure, that we might become a force to sustainable competition within Scotland, attracting the best and brightest here, trade, investment & keeping our local economy on track for growth. That starts with making Fife 21st century ready and it starts with decent transport.

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