August 30, 2019
Richard Beeching is truly famous for just one thing – closing around 5,000 miles of Britain’s railway network. Any railway line that wasn’t turning a profit in the 60’s was for the chop. Many communities fought to save their lines and stations but few had any success. Some communities, however, never gave up the dream of having their line reinstated. Communities the length of the old Borders line campaigned tirelessly for years and are now reaping the benefits. Which is why last week’s announcement by Transport Minister Michael Matheson was such a cause for celebration in the Levenmouth area of Fife.
Campaigners and politicians have highlighted the transformative impact the reopening of the Levenmouth rail link could have on the local area.
Following Transport Secretary Michael Matheson’s announcement that the rail line will be reopened, campaigners who have fought for years celebrated the news.
Dr Allen Armstrong of the Levenmouth Rail Campaign (LMRC) said the news “exceeded our expectations”.
Speaking to the East Fife Mail earlier this week, he said the group were hoping that Mr Matheson would be announcing a further study into the possibility of reopening the line.
“We’re absolutely over the moon. It exceeded our expectations. We thought that the Transport Secretary would agree to the next stage of the study, but it opened with ‘we’re reopening it’ and, even more, it’s going to take place within five years.
“We’re almost emotional. The campaigners have been banging our heads against the wall for five years. We hope we’ve played a major role in this.”
The Transport Secretary, MSPs and councillors all paid tribute to the efforts of LMRC.
Cllr Colin Davidson, deputy chair of regional transport authority SEStran, said: “The rail campaigners have kept this whole issue alive. They’ve hit the buffers so many times, but they’ve continued to come back.”
He also paid tribute to officials at Fife Council, Transport Scotland, Peter Brett Associates and SEStran, for their work “behind the scenes”.
Cllr Davidson added: “This means life changing opportunities. The area has been maligned for so many decades. This rail line will make the difference in turning the area around. I think we’re going to see an ecomonic boom in this area.”
Fife Council co-leader and local councillor David Alexander and area convenor Cllr Ken Caldwell both spoke how important the news was.
“The campaign started the day the rail line closed,” Cllr Alexander said. “I was 12 years old at the time. I am delighted. Not often has Levenmouth won in the last few decades – Levenmouth has won this time. This is truly transformational. We’ve won.”
Cllr Caldwell added: “This is fantastic news. We’ve fought long and hard. It’s brilliant and the Levenmouth Blueprint is the icing on the cake. When we were chapping doors for all the election campaigns, the two most common comments we got were ‘when is the rail link happening’ and ‘we’re the forgotten corner of Fife’.”
Leven MSP Jenny Gilruth described the announcement as “truly significant”, adding: “I would like to thank the Cabinet Secretary for his commitment to Leven’s railway. He’ll know how much this means to me as I never missed an opportunity to make the case to him directly.
“The people of Levenmouth will now expect action – and who could blame them after half a century. I will be watching closely to ensure that Fife Council and Transport Scotland now work to take Leven’s railway forward at pace. This is a great day for Levenmouth.”
Local MSP David Torrance also paid tribute to LMRC, as well as former MSP Tricia Marwick, who also campaigned for the reopening of the line. He added: “This will bring huge potential to the area, not only allowing residents in the area to travel out with the area for employment, education and leisure, but will also bring huge economic potential for investment and tourism within the area with the backing of a good reliable public transport system.”
North East Fife MP Stephen Gethins said: “The rail link will bring real benefits for future generations, connecting people and businesses based in Levenmouth and the surrounding area, including the East Neuk, to the main rail network as well as opening up the area to inward investment and tourism.
North East Fife MSP Willie Rennie said the “staunch support” of local people had “persuaded the authorities that there would be a powerful economic, social and environmental benefit with the reopening of the line. I’m delighted with this progress. Let’s get it built now.”
Fife MSP Claire Baker added: “This is a very positive announcement from the Cabinet Secretary and is testament to the determination and commitment of LMRC.”