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Scottish Parliament Speech: Leven to Thornton Rail Link (April 2008)

See this speech in context on They Work For You.

I remember the glory days of the Levenmouth line. Back in 1952, my family had a holiday at Leven. I remember seeing vast quantities of coal pouring down from the collieries into trains and off down to London or Denmark.

Even today, the strongest case for the reopening of the line is the freight case. That is not to say that one should not pursue the passenger case. However, there is a remarkable redevelopment of freight in Britain, which had dwindled to the point that there was hardly any north of the Forth bridge. I am thinking not only of Diageo at Cameron Bridge, but the possibilities that arise in terms of opencast coal traffic.

From talking to fruit importers in Fife, I know that, if rail services were accurate and timely enough, international fruit traffic from Spain could come to a depot along the line. Most important of all, with the development of new renewables technology, we have the linkage between firms such as Siemens in Germany, with its factories and electric works, and the energy park in Methil. A flow of dedicated wagonload traffic across Europe, keeping to careful schedules, would develop that linkage.

We must remember that, in Germany, since 2005, rail freight has staged a remarkable recovery and that the amount carried is advancing at more than 10 per cent a year. Next to Germany, in Austria, the railways carry 35 per cent of the country's total freight, compared with the minor amount of less than 12 per cent that is carried in Britain. However, that figure is expected to rise dramatically, given that, in June last year, most railway freight services in Britain were taken over by the German state railway company, when English Welsh & Scottish Railway was bought up by Deutsche Bahn.

We must think about rather more than just the terminal line in Fife; we must also think about having facilities between Fife and the channel tunnel that will enable our freight to move smoothly, so that we do not get those terrible periods of being diverted all over the place because of supposed improvements that are being made to the line somewhere in England. If we get a dedicated and, preferably, Berne gauge - a continental loading gauge-line through England, we could have a real renaissance of rail traffic to Scotland and the Thornton to Leven line would become one of the major terminal areas for international freight into what will be, I trust, a booming Fife.

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