Levenmouth Rail Campaign (LMRC) was launched by a local small regeneration charity, CLEAR Buckhaven in March 2014 (after an earlier, failed attempt in 2012) which considered this as the single most effective regeneration measure for this deprived and declining coastal mining community of over 30,000 on the mid-Fife Coast. Incidentally, by far the largest community Scotland with no direct raillink and at the end of a 6-mile branch line owned and merely mothballed by Network Rail following the ending of freight services in 2001 (passenger services closed in October 1969).
A modest number of local residents initially responded to the Campaign call and we established a dedicated and energetic group to drive the issue forward – itself a challenging task in an area where social capital is weak. This has been very much a community-based and -driven campaign, fuelled by the demand for social justice and considered as much more than a mere transport project but as critical for revitalising the community and alleviating negative perception surrounding its prospects. The Campaign has obtained solid support from Fife Council, including early funding support (since the raillink has long featured among their transport-regeneration priorities), and elected representatives from across the political spectrum also lent their weight. One huge advantage we enjoyed was that no dissenting voice was ever expressed, which can stymie similar efforts elsewhere
This Campaign followed an earlier, ultimately unsuccessful effort led by local MSP and Scottish Parliament speaker which concluded in 2008. Despite mobilising interest, presenting a sizeable petition and a debate in the Scottish Parliament, reinstatement of the line was eventually rejected under the Strategic Transport Project review which concluded reinstating the line was of `local’ rather than `national’ interest –a strange dismissal for the 23rd largest town in Scotland struggling to escape decades of post-industrial decline.
The Campaign has been relentless and indefatigable from the outset. As well as sustaining the Campaign itself, we followed what might be termed a two-track strategy – the first focused on the daunting technical requirements and bureaucratic process needed to move rail projects forward (a necessary but not sufficient condition) and the second on mobilising awareness from grassroots up to official level and political pressure. Public meetings were held monthly augmented by a series of talks by experts in the field (including Paul Tetlaw from Transform). We quickly pressed Fife Council to fund yet another STAG (in 2015) although one had been conducted a mere 7 years previously – one more major revision was needed (in 2019) after a commitment from the Minister following a debate in the Scottish Parliament. One major contributor to the Campaign’s success was the involvement of a number of rail experts in the field who not only guided us through the complex techno-bureaucratic minefield but lent practical support, including the production of a magnificent booklet summarising the overwhelming case for reinstatement.
We maintained a steady drumbeat of information, some might say propaganda, throughout. Regular ebulletins and newsletters, social media updates, at least weekly press reports. One Transport Minister observed that many of his communications received a reminder of its link to the Levenmouth case. We took the message out with talks to local community groups, community councils, Rotary, pensioner groups and others and further afield to national events such as Railfuture, Engineers, environmental, rail industry conferences and others In this former mining community, you would come across stall and flags run by the Campaign at the various galas and other summer events. We gathered petitions, eventually submitting 12,500 to the Minister, and followed this up with aa Business Charter Campaign to which more than 200 local business subscribed. Among other higher profile events, we ran several Walk-the Line Events in which local schools and young enthusiastically participated. And much more.
It was gratifying to attend a packed public event in Methil in August 2019 (after a gap of almost exactly 50 years since passengers last travelled by train closure), Minister Michael Matheson announced the decision to reopen the line by end 2023 at a cost of £70 million plus an additional £5 million, to be matched by £5 million from Fife Council, to maximise the impact of the return of rail services.
The Campaign is still going strong and is still needed. We remain a key voice of the community relaying update and pressing issues to ensure local concerns are adequately reflected in the implementation of the rail project and in the accompanying Levenmouth Reconnected \9the Blueprint) project. Alongside this, another major programme linked to the River Leven plan major investment on active travel connectivity so we are striving to ensure the wider community received the connections needed
The Campaign received a civic reception from Fife Council and was recognised as Community Champions in the breakthrough year of 2019. Our longstanding, dynamic chair stepped down in 2021 to apply his skills in future local politics but the Campaign remains active and engaged and with plenty on our plate. La Lutta Continua.
Given other Campaigns take much longer, we have been grateful to achieve the outcome in relatively short time, perhaps aided by timing in terms Scotland transport investment plans. For a major strategic resource such as rail, heavily publicly funded, local campaigns such as ours should not be necessary. It was and still is – and thanks to all who backed us.
More information, contact:
Chair: Allen Armstrong LMRC@Mail.com