10 Reasons why St Andrews needs its railway back.
1. It is the Home of Golf, and as such hosts various tournaments every year, such as the Dunhill Championship, and the Spring and September R & A competitions. St Andrews has also staged the Curtis Cup and the Women's British Open. Which leads to:
2. The Open. This is 'only' a quinquennial visit, despite the expressed desires of various foreign golfers, but the event strains the town's infrastructure, in particular the roads. As far back as 1989 the Chair of the Scottish Tourist Board expressed his concerns to the District Council and asked if it would be possible to restore the railway so that the town could cope more easily with such large events. Since then, the Open has become a much larger event.
3. It is a major tourist destination, regularly featuring in the top 10 VisitScotland destinations and the top ten Trip Advisor UK destinations among others. In these lists it tends to be the only such destination without a railway station.
4. The economy, stupid! Unlike most Fife towns, St Andrews is an economic generator, an attractor of employment and opportunity. The concept of a ‘turn up and go’ railway enabling people to travel easily to do business or study in adjacent settlements is seen as a major driver of growth and employment. The other Fife towns, such as Cupar and Dunfermline, are not attractors but suppliers of people, as is Dundee. The improved connectivity which a railway to St Andrews would bring would benefit them all, as well as bringing money into St Andrews, thus benefiting the Fife economy. A key player is:
5. The University of St Andrews. Scotland's oldest university is regularly ranked highly in performance tables, yet is the only Scottish university town without a station and one of only a handful of British ones not on the rail network (Keele, Cranfield, Buckingham and Lampeter). The number of students has steadily grown to nearly 8000. With its world-class university, St Andrews has the basis of a knowledge industry which, with improved transport links, could attract start-up businesses and research institutes just as Cambridge does.
6. Other events which attract significant numbers of visitors are Festivals such as the St Andrew's Festival and Stanza, also the centuries-old Lammas Market, during which extra trains used to be run. All of these mean more traffic coming into town by road.
7. We haven't even mentioned the local people yet but there are around 20000 residents of St Andrews, including the students, making it one of the largest settlements in Scotland without a railway line. The Association of Train Operating Companies recently set out criteria for new railway stations, one of which was a population of 15000, and that was without any other factors, such as the above-mentioned, which would also be qualifying criteria.
8. A significant percentage of the inhabitants are Commuters to other towns. Many more people travel into St Andrews every day. The increasing number of these daily car-journeys makes the A91 between Guardbridge and St Andrews the busiest road in North East Fife and if there are any problems on the roads, a jam very quickly occurs. Any extra traffic heading to St Andrews for a particular event or on public holidays has an effect which can be felt as far back down the road as Cupar. This high car use is prone to cause congestion in the town, thus putting pressure on:
9. Car Parking space. The design of the town, with its mediaeval layout, does not lend itself to large car-parks, and therefore space is limited. The large number of parked cars is an unsightly blight on the amenity of the town centre, yet understandably there is great resistance to reducing this.
10. Last but by no means least is the effect upon the Environment. Offering the option of a railway into town would result in a significant reduction in carbon emissions, as trains are the most efficient means of transport to move large numbers of people. It has been found that a rail option can attract 70% of car users, and this is borne out by the Starlink surveys which found that 72-73% of visitors who had driven to St Andrews would be willing to use a train.