It is now likely that the mothballed Levenmouth branch will be Scotland’s next new railway following a recent Scottish Parliament debate.
Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) Jenny Gilruth called the debate on September 27. In her opening speech, she noted that the Levenmouth conurbation was both the largest in Scotland without a railway and an area of significant deprivation, isolated from transport links.
She stressed that re-opening the railway wasn’t just a transport project, it was about regeneration and investment. She had no doubt that the new railway had the potential to change lives.
A further six MSPs from different parties raised further arguments in favour of the rail link. The additional points raised including its potential to carry freight from the largest distillery in Europe, its ability to significantly boost tourism, that the Borders success should inspire confidence and that this proposal had attracted rare cross-party support.
The issue of the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) process required to justify new transport infrastructure was raised. MSPs found this to be tiresome, frustrating and lacking transparency and felt that a Network Rail GRIP study was required to progress the project.
In response Scottish transport minister, Humza Yousaf, stressed the need for transport investment to be subject to due diligence but acknowledged the frustration of the STAG process and would ask Transport Scotland to consider this.
He accepted that, in Levenmouth’s case, it was important that the cost benefit ratio should consider the regeneration impact, rather than just direct benefits.
For this, and other reasons mentioned he was “minded to instruct Transport Scotland to take on the responsibility for a GRIP study” and that this must look beyond basic cost-benefit.
He concluded that discussion by noting the campaign’s view that “Levenmouth is more than a transport project”, which he thought was a great tagline.
Passenger services to Leven ceased in 1965, following this debate it seems likely that they will resume just less than sixty years later.