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Railwatch 069 - October 1996

Confidence rises


The prospect of a Channel Tunnel fast link has sparked renewed interest in rail reopening in Kent and Sussex. The chance of creating a third line from the Sussex coast which could also feed into Ebbsfleet on the fast link has inspired the two county councils and two district councils to look at an ambitious rail plan which would need very little capital investment to create.

The idea would be to reopen between Uckfield and Lewes and also to reinstate trains between Eridge and Tunbridge Wells to give a clear line from Brighton to North Kent.

Reinstating the Uckfield-Lewes line has always been a good bet for reducing road traffic. Only four years ago, the RDS sponsored cycle ride was held there to raise awareness and local campaigners have been beavering away since then, winning over more hearts and minds.

The £2.1 million estimated cost of relaying a single electrified line between Ukfield and Lewes would give enormous social, environmental and economic benefit. There would be additional cost in bridging the Lewes bypass but the benefits would make it worthwhile.

An outline report has already been produced by Mott MacDonald for the local councils and a pre-feasibility study is under consideration at present. The councils are expected to commission a full feasibility study by Mott MacDonald this autumn.

A campaign briefing can be obtained from Brian Hart, Wealden Line Campaign, PO Box 645, Uckfield, East Sussex TN22 5BZ. You could even include a donation!

Star of St Andrews

By Jane Ann Liston

It is seven years since the STARLINK (St Andrews Rail Link) campaign was launched. In the early years, North East Fife District Council was willing to help fund a feasibility study into reconnecting St Andrews with the rail network, but Fife Regional Council, the public transport authority, was not. However we are glad to report that the new Fife Council, which replaced North East Fife District and Fife Regional Councils on 1 April, has shown a much more positive attitude, with the vice-chair of Transportation saying she is sympathetic to the idea of a railway to St Andrews.

Our main priority now is to get a feasibility study which would address the questions of who would use the service, how it should be run, its projected income and where it would be laid.

The old route is out of the question because there have been new houses built on the Guardbridge station site; the old Eden bridge pillars are too far downstream for current safety standards and the A91 and A919 road junctions are far too busy for a level-crossing.

Fife Council officials will recommend their council contributes if Railtrack oragnises a study. Fife Enterprise is not yet convinced that a railway would create new jobs, nor increase revenue, but is willing to meet council and Railtrack.

Railtrack has suggested that, if council and Fife Enterprise become involved, then it could be convinced by a suitable presentation. Although it would not be right at this stage to name individual organisations, we can say that a number of consultancy firms are interested.

One has stated that a railway to St Andrews would make the town more accessible, increasing the number of tourist trips (including business tourism) which would result in increased tourist revenue. Contrary to Fife Enterprise's opinion, a railway would increase the town's revenue.

There might even be an advantage to Wormit, at the southern end of the Tay Bridge, which has been campaigning for the last 17 years for a halt.

If a line was built to St Andrews, direct services to Dundee could stop at Wormit. A suitable study may well cost £330,000, the bulk of which will have to come from Fife Council, Fife Enterprise and Railtrack.

However we propose to start 'priming the pump' with small amounts, possibly in the autumn.

Reopenings conference

This 1997 national RDS conference will be held in Yorkshire, probably at Halifax or Huddersfield, at the end of June.

Note: contact details (postal and email addresses, along with telephone numbers) in old editions of Railwatch out of date. Click CONTACT US for latest contact details.

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