Join the campaign for railway station at Winchburgh - Sue Webber

Conservative MSP Sue WebberConservative MSP Sue Webber
Conservative MSP Sue Webber
For those very lucky Edinburgh people with second homes in the East Neuk of Fife, there might be a little sense of excitement at the planning permission granted this week for a new station at Cameron Bridge on the outskirts of Methil.

The station is one of two new stops on the Levenmouth Rail Link project, the reinstatement of passenger services along a five-mile route between Kirkcaldy and Leven which ceased in 1969.

The park-and-ride facilities mean people can commute to their Edinburgh offices from their Fife bolt-holes without adding to congestion across the Forth.

Although there has been a campaign for its reopening for years, the re-opening was officially approved by Transport Scotland in 2019 and the first passenger services are due to start in Spring next year, not bad when you consider work on the tram to Newhaven started in 2007 and only opens next week.

Because the line was still in use for freight as recently as 2011, it’s hard to draw value-for-money comparisons with other projects, but at £116 million to serve a population of around 43,000 people it certainly looks like it delivers more bang for its bucks than the £207m cost of the three-mile tram line to Newhaven, serving a population of just over 25,000.

The £300m Airdrie-Bathgate line took just four years from Royal Assent until it carried its first customers in 2011, and the £353m Borders rail link to Tweedbank took five years to build and opened in 2015. No wonder that £1 billion for the Edinburgh tram is still eye-watering.

I can’t argue that Edinburgh has been short-changed when it comes to new train stations serving routes into the capital, but when even small places like Reston get a new stop on the east coast mainline ─ East Linton will get one next year ─ it makes the absence of concrete plans for a station at Winchburgh all the more stark.

The village sits next to the main Glasgow line and its population will more than treble from around 3,800 to 13,000 as new homes are built as part of the Edinburgh City Region Deal, but the Scottish Parliament was told as recently as March that Transport Scotland supported a station, but funded by the housebuilders, not the government. And yet it was Transport Scotland which told West Lothian Council not to make building a station a condition of the planning consents for the new homes.

The developers have already funded the new junction on the M9, so it’s not as if they aren’t already making a significant contribution to local infrastructure, and SNP-Green ministers can’t wash their hands of responsibility for the consequences of their own housing policies.

I already know how high feelings are running in the village, so tomorrow I’m launching a campaign to make sure Winchburgh gets its station, and I’ll be on a stall outside the Winchburgh Farmers’ Market to hear what people have to say and to start a petition to bring local pressure to bear.

West Edinburgh is already at a standstill at peak times and The Scottish Government can’t encourage the building of thousands of new homes without adequate transport links. If it can deliver new stations at Cameron Bridge, Reston and East Linton, it can certainly build one at Winchburgh.

Sue Webber is a Scottish Conservative MSP for Lothian