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"The St. Andews Rail Link" by Howard Pack and Rita O'Neill: Dundee meeting of 20 November 2012

Tata Steel have produced for StARLink the St Andrews Rail Link campaign a concept study which presents concepts for further appraisal.

The original branch line built by discredited Victorian engineer Sir Thomas Bouch was low-speed and at Leuchars faced only in the direction of Dundee, leaving Edinburgh-bound trains with only the indirect and long-lost route around the coast of the East Neuk. Closed in 1969 after never offering a Sunday service throughout its existence, the branch’s bridge over the River Eden has been demolished and its alignment is considered unsuitable for reinstatement.

Some years ago consultant Scott Wilson proposed a new alignment south of A91 which would be longer, offering only a cramped station site and an unsatisfactory link to Dundee. StARLink have offered a better route north of the A91 which would be shorter and more direct, offering a better terminus. GIS overlay and land mapping techniques have been used, taking account of geological features to show suitability of the underlying rock so as to provide an earthworks cost with SSSI disturbance values added in to produce an overall price-tag of £70M with 30% risk for a single-track line (making passive provision for doubling and an additional platform) 7855 metres or 4 miles 70 chains long with a triangular junction for direct running to and from both Edinburgh and Dundee.

The initial study was launched in May 2012 for consultation. Changes made in response have included lowering the proposed viaduct for the benefit of the Old Course Hotel and building new access roads, improving public access for the St. Andrews Links Trust. Proposed train service frequency is hourly to Edinburgh via West Fife to ease line-occupancy, calling (so as to meet other intermediate demands) at Cupar, Dunfermline Town, Edinburgh Gateway and Haymarket and with a Class 170 taking five minutes to traverse the branch the end-to-end journey-time would be one-and-a-quarter hours. To Dundee there would be an hourly service calling at Leuchars, but to be attractive maybe this should be half-hourly.

Rita O'Neill's demand study for Tata Steel follows industry guidance which assumes that people act rationally. The Passenger Demand Forecasting Handbook has provided guidance for over five decades. The majority of schemes involve changes to existing demand, but consideration of absolute demand is needed so as to provide a robust forecast for new stations and lines.

A trip rate model was devised, tailored to the study area and using linear regression analysis based on published data: population statistics, ORR usage figures, National Rail Trends and Scottish Government information on revenue, to which was added St Andrews-specific data from surveys of staff and students and visitor surveys. To figures showing footfall relative to population for existing Fife stations was added a 25% enhancement reflecting factors unique to St. Andrews. The abstraction from Leuchars was calculated using the same trip rate model Gains at Cupar, Dunfermline Town and other intermediate stations were added using a basic generalised journey time calculation. The revenue impact was derived from average yields based on National Rail Trends and the annual Scottish Transport Statistics.

A review by SDG of demand forecasting at new stations found no systematic over- or under-forecasting but attributed variances to changes in forecasting assumptions, to modelling which had not reflected local circumstances and to promoters giving not enough attention to demand.

The St. Andrews forecast is for 385-508k journeys less abstraction from Leuchars with net annual revenue estimated at £653k-£1.637M. Travel time reduction benefits are estimated at £214k-£269k and modal transfer benefits at £69k-£166k.

Local issues should be seen in the context of St. Andrews as a world-class destination for both golf and its university whose improved connectivity can make a significant contribution to the Scottish economy. Tata Steel commend its findings for further study consistent with the Government's Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidelines.

Report by John Yellowlees.

 

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