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Scottish Parliament Speech: Alloa to Fife and Edinburgh Rail Link (October 2008)

See this speech in context on They Work For You.

I thank Jim Tolson for securing the debate and for raising the possibility of a rail passenger loop from Stirling and Alloa to Edinburgh via Fife. As someone who is old enough to have travelled on the original line through Oakley before it closed, I am glad to support the motion.

 

I will not cite the statistics, because members already have them, but I will mention that the young man who served me breakfast this morning, realising that the motion was being debated today, said that the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine rail link has been great for him, because his in-laws live in Alloa. The line knocks 20 minutes off the journey time and it is cheaper when he is taking the kids. There are already many satisfied customers.

 

The Alloa line will become the main heavy freight route into Fife - the link between the kingdom and Grangemouth and Mossend for container traffic - but it is a freight line between Alloa and Dunfermline, so care has to be taken with the capacity, timetabling, signalling and passing loops and the chord line outside Dunfermline.

The upper Forth is developing as a major city region, and the line could be part of a circular railway linking the communities of Falkirk, Stirling, Alloa, Dunfermline, Queensferry and Linlithgow, which have a population of a quarter of a million in all. In the longer term, the region could provide a habitat that balances Glasgow to the west and Edinburgh to the east, with an almost unparalleled offering of castles and palaces; historic towns, from Culross to Linlithgow; universities and colleges; and industrial monuments, ranging from the Forth bridges to the Falkirk wheel.

There are some problems with 20mph restrictions between Alloa, Longannet and Dunfermline, which will mean a fairly lengthy programme of upgrading, but perhaps that could be contained within the improvement of the Edinburgh to Glasgow line as, with its electrification, Turbostar trains will be released to trickle down to Fife when they are replaced by electric units. An initial goal could be an hourly to half-hourly train from Glasgow via Alloa to Dunfermline, which could build up to a ring railway.

The growth in rail transport that Jim Tolson mentioned might make us reconsider the multimodal nature of the second Forth crossing. A cable-stayed bridge could have a high-speed rail link, rather than a tramway, with the same profile as a motorway, of the sort that is being incorporated into the Fehmarn bridge between Germany and Denmark. That would work out, kilometre for kilometre, cheaper than the planned Forth crossing.

As for possible new stations, Kincardine could be a tourist goal, and Culross is an undervisited but beautiful miniature. There could also be a station at Cairneyhill, near Dunfermline.

I turn now to a factor that will govern the next few months. As a means of generating interest, I suggest going back to the past and running a series of steam passenger trains around the circuit during the coming summer of homecoming. The Scottish Railway Preservation Society, of which I am a founding life member, is helpfully situated at Bo'ness, and two or three trains could be run on Sundays, when there are fewer freight trains around, to accustom people to the new utility around the upper Forth. Given the precedent of recent excursions in Wales, that would be a substantial and rousing success.

 
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