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The Stirling - Alloa Rail Link

Joint meeting of the Scottish Region of the ILT and the Institution of Civil Engineers Scottish Traffic & Transportation Group held in Stirling on 23 March 2004.

A well attended joint meeting was addressed by David Reid, Project Director, Babtie Group on the work being undertaken to reopen the railway line to Alloa. He explained that the line to Cambus is still "operational" although it is out of use, the last train running in 1993. The line is in need of repair. This line links the existing Larbert - Perth and Dunfermline - Longannet lines. The section of line from Cambus through Alloa to the line to Longannet is out of use and classed as "disused" although the rails are still in situ, albeit overgrown with vegetation.

The original proposal has developed from the provision of one train a day to a full passenger service. The scheme now consists of providing 21km of single track with passing loops allowing freight trains to travel at 60 mph and passenger trains to travel at 70 mph. There are 54 structures and 15 level crossings on the line and a new station at Alloa. Also included in the scheme are the various associated works. This will enable 15 passenger trains a day between Alloa and Stirling with extensions of the service to Glasgow Queen Street. Additionally, 15 freight trains a day can be accommodated with RA10 loading, but initially there will be 5 or 6 freight trains a day.

Currently, freight trains use the Forth Rail Bridge but there are weight restrictions on these. By re-opening the Alloa line, freight trains can be diverted giving a shorter route, free of weight restrictions and this will also benefit other services that use the Forth Rail bridge by freeing up a number of paths. The cost of the scheme is estimated at some £37 million (excluding VAT) with funding being provided by the Scottish executive Public Transport Fund and the Integrated Transport Fund (£30 million). The Strategic Rail Authority is contributing £3 million and EWS some £0.25 million. The local Public Transport Partnership is adding some £3.9 million and there is also a contribution from Scottish Enterprise.

The Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament in March 2003, with the "lead Committee" beginning consideration of the general principles of the Bill in September 2003. By December 2003, these had been agreed and it is anticipated that the Design and Build contract will be awarded in April 2004. By July 2004, the Bill should be passed, becoming an Act of the Scottish Parliament and construction work should commence. By November 2005 the line will be undergoing commissioning and driver training will be underway with the route opening in December 2005.

As part of the Bill submission process, a large number of documents had to be prepared including explanatory notes, the promoters statement and memorandum, an estimate of costs, maps, plans, environmental statement, assignation of copyright, an undertaking to pay costs and the fees (£5,000). The Bill will enable outline planning permission for the railway works, associated road and ancillary works, as well as the provision of both temporary and permanent access. It also covers the continuation or discontinuation of level crossings, the acquisition of land and rights of way, but will not provide powers to operate trains. The Bill does not cover the detailed planning for Alloa Station, the provision of access to land owned by network Rail and does not specify the standards of the works and crossings.

The next stage of the Parliamentary procedure of considering the Bill looked closely at the details of the Bill, the validity of the supporting documents, and allowed objections in principle but not in detail. It also looked at the robustness of the business case, the consultations held and the alternatives. The promoter of the bill responded to the Committee's questions. The next stage of the parliamentary procedure looks at the detailed objections. By this stage the Bill can only be amended, not rejected. There were 55 objections to the scheme received, grouped into 18 categories. Written evidence was heard from both parties on these objections and three Committee meetings were held in public. Cross examination was undertaken on points in dispute and the various objectors were given every opportunity to state and make their case. At the end, the promoters had 30 minutes to summarize the case and the final meeting at this stage was held on 22 March 2004.

The final stage involves the "lead Committee" producing a report to the full Parliament, and will table any amendments to the bill. The final stage will be a full debate (expected to take place in June 2004) and work on the scheme should commence shortly thereafter. For further information on the scheme visit the website at www.sakrailway.co.uk .

Report by John Fender.

 

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