The Anonymous Widower

Is The Levenmouth Rail Link Going To Be Scotland’s Next New Railway?

I ask this question as this article in Global Rail News was asking the same question, with a title of Levenmouth – Scotland’s next railway?.

According to the article, the figures look good, for the reopening of the Levenouth Rail Link,  with a Benefit Cost Ration of 1.3, which compares well with the figure of 0.96 for the successful Borders Railway.

This is also said in the Wikipedia entry for the Fife Circle Line under Future Services.

A Leven rail link would provide better services to support major industrial sites at Fife Energy Park, Methil Docks, the Low Carbon Park (under construction), Diageo, the businesses along the Leven Valley (including Donaldsons) and major retailers in Leven located close to the line (Sainsbury, B&Q, Argos, etc.). Levenmouth is an area of high deprivation and Fife Council estimates that an hourly train link (using the Fife Circle services)to Edinburgh would increase job vacancies by 500% since commuting for work would become possible.

There is one big difference between the Borders Railway and the Levenmouth Rail Link.

On a journey to Scotland’s capital from Leven, the travellers have to cross the large water.barrier of the Firth of Forth.

Is The Firth Of Forth A Psychological Barrier?

Does the Forth act as both a psychological batter, as well as a physical barrier to travel?

I don’t know for sure, but I hear the same sort of comments from my friends in Edinburgh about Fife, as North Londoners make about South London and probably South Londoners make about the North.

The much larger Thameslink project may get all the publicity and criticism, but London’s most modern cross-river link just keeps on giving.

The East London Line  And The Levenmouth Rail Link

You might argue, what has the East London Line  got to do with the Levenmouth Rail Link?

I believe that because of the geography of the two areas, with a major waterway between two centres of population, that the massive underestimation of passenger numbers, that occurred in East London could also happen across the Forth.

Luckily, that just as Marc Brunel provided a high-quality crossing under the Thames, the Victorians did this for the Firth of Forth.

Although, it could be argued that the Scottish crossing is more iconic and you get a better view.

As an aside, if the Forth Bridge, which opened in 1890 is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, surely Marc Brunel’s much older Thames Tunnel, should be similarly acknowledged.

Local Rail Services Across The Firth Of Forth

At present the local services across the bridge are four trains per hour on the Fife Circle Line.

That is not a high capacity service, given the line is not electrified.

If the Levenmouth Rail Link were to be rebuilt, it would connect to the Fife Circle  and surely, it would mean that more trains could be timetabled to and from Edinburgh, via the new station at Edinburgh Gateway, which gives access to Edinburgh’s trams, the Airport and services to Glasgow and the West of Scotland.

Would those along the Levenmouth Rail Link respond to a new railway, as those who live in Hackney did to the East London Line?

I would be very surprised if they didn’t!

Rebuilding The Levenmouth Rail Link

The Levenmouth Rail Link is a classic branch line, with not much complication. Published plans show the following.

This Google Map shows the junction with the main line.

glenrothrsthornton

Glenrothes with Thornton station is in the South-West corner of the map on the Fife Circle Line.

  • Trains go West from the station to Edinburgh on the Fife Circle Line via Cowdenbeath and Dunfermline.
  • There is a triangular junction to the East of the station.
  • Trains go South from this junction to Edinburgh via Kirkcaldy.
  • Trains go North from this junction to Perth, Dundee and Aberdeen.

To the North of this junction, the line splits, with trains for Leven, branching off to the East.

This map from Wikipedia shows the stations on the Fife Circle Line

Note that the junction where the Fife Circle Line splits South of Markinch station, is the one shown in the Google Map.

Electrification

The Fife Circle and the Edinburgh to Aberdeen Line are not electrified and there are no scheduled plans to do so, other than the aspiration of having more lines with electric services.

But various factors will effect the types of trains between Edinburgh and Perth, Dundee and Aberdeen.

  • Distances are not hundreds of miles.
  • Virgin’s electro-diesel Class 800 trains will be working between Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
  • Could Hitachi build electro-diesel versions of their Class 385 trains, as they share design features with the Class 800 trains?
  • Will Hitachi add energy storage to Class 385 trains?
  • Abellio are rumoured to be introducing trains with energy storage in East Anglia. Would this expertise be used by Abellio ScotRail?

I think we could see a cost-effective strategy implemented, that included electric trains, but a limited amount of overhead wiring.

  • Edinburgh to Dalmeny – Electrified
  • The Forth Bridge could be left without wires, if it were thought too sensitive for the Heritage Taliban.
  • North Queensferry to Perth – Electrified
  • Ladybank to Dundee – Not electrified
  • Fife Circle via Cowdenbeath and Dunfermline – Electrified
  • Levenmouth Rail Link – Not electrified

Note.

  1. As Stirling and/or Dunblane will be electrified, will Stirling to Perth be electrified?
  2. Between Dalmeny and North Queensferry, diesel or battery power would be used on local services.
  3. I have flown my virtual helicopter round the Fife Circle and it doesn’t look that electrification would be a nightmare.
  4. The Levenmouth Rail Link could be run by battery trains, with a charging station, like a Railbaar, at Leven station.

Appropriate trains would provide all services.

Services

Obviously, what services are introduced depends on passenger traffic.

But after a quick look at the lines, I suspect that the Levenmouth Rail Link fits well with current services on the Fife Circle.

Bear in mind too, that reopening the St. Andrews Rail Link , could be a possibility.

Conclusion

The railways North from the Forth Bridge in the East and Stirling and Dunblane in the West to Perth and Dundee could be much improved. I would do the following.

  • Some short lengths of electrification.
  • Bi-mode or battery versions of Class 385 trains.

All trains going over the Forth Bridge, should have large windows. The Bridge Visitor Centre must also have easy access with perhaps a free shuttle bus from Dalmeny station.

One of Scotland’s major assets, must be made to work for its living.

 

 

November 18, 2016 - Posted by | Travel | , , ,

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