Page last updated at 00:15 GMT, Thursday, 15 May 2008 01:15 UK

Trains back on track after 40 years

By Jo Perry
Central Reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Alloa Train Station
Passenger services are resuming at Alloa after a break of 40 years
When Scotland's Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson joins with more than 300 invited guests to celebrate the reopening of the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine rail line, it will mark the end of a long campaign by locals to have the track

reinstated.

It was in 1968 that the last passenger train pulled out of Alloa station, with freight services ending just a few years later.

The closure followed the publication of the controversial 'Reshaping of British Railways' report by the then chairman of British Railways, Richard Beeching.

Since its closure, the area has undergone dramatic economic change with the decline of its coal, brewing, textile and paper industries.

The re-opening of the rail link is being hailed as a new beginning for the Clackmannanshire area.

An hourly direct rail passenger service will operate between Alloa and Glasgow via Stirling.

Passengers travelling to Edinburgh will be able to do so via connecting services at Stirling station.

The 13-mile stretch of track, which was originally due for completion in 2005, will also be used by freight services and will end at Longannet power station.

Chief among its champions is Clackmannanshire Provost Derek Stewart.

He can remember taking the steam train as a boy, from Alloa station for family days out to the seaside.

If someone had said to me 30 years ago that one day you'll be provost and you'll be reopening this link, I would have said 'no chance'
Clackmannanshire Provost
Derek Stewart

He is unrepentant at the spiralling costs associated with the project, first pegged at 37m but now reaching the 100m mark.

He said: "To me, and I admit I am biased, it has been worth every penny.

"If someone had said to me 30 years ago that one day you'll be provost and you'll be reopening this link, I would have said 'no chance'."

He said it was a day he thought "would never come".

The provost said: "When I was a boy, if you were going away for the day, you took the train. People didn't have the access to cars and buses that they do now.

"The railway was a major force. It was also a lifeline for industry in Clackmannanshire, with freight travelling from the Dollar coalfield to Longannet power station.

"In the years that the rail line's been shut we have seen all the area's industries shut down.

He said the reopening of the line would have a huge impact on the area's "psychologically".

Provost Stewart said: "We hope that in the longer term tourists will take the train from Stirling and visit the area. We have a lot to offer.

"And there has already been off-the-cuff discussions with Fife Council about re-opening the east track and providing a service direct to Edinburgh or the ferry terminal at Rosyth over the next 10 years.

"Hopefully it won't take that long."

'Stops everywhere'

Provost Stewart is attending the reopening event with the transport minister.

To mark the occasion, hundreds of invited guests will board a steam train, hauled by the Great Marquess, to make a maiden trip from Alloa to Stirling.

On its return, the train will be hauled by the Royal Scots Grey, a preserved diesel locomotive Class 55 Deltic.

Among the guests will be William Burt, 73, and Gordon Stewart, 67, who worked along with about 50 other men in the Alloa depot as a steam engine drivers in the 1950s and 60s.

Alloa train line
The new line will be used for both passenger and freight services

Mr Burt said: "It's absolutely fantastic that the line is being reopened. Forty-odd years ago it was very functional, you could get to any town or city in the country.

"It's different from getting on a bus that stops everywhere. Getting on a train takes you where you want to go."

Mr Stewart added: "Back then the line was quite busy. You had children catching the train everyday to get to school in Dollar.

"There is a tendency to look back on the old days and always think of them as good but you were working in the fresh air and we were fit and healthy young men."

Current train driver Tom Cahill, 47, who is based at Glasgow's Queen Street, has been overseeing the training of about 140 drivers who will take over the new route.

The new hourly direct rail passenger service between Alloa, Stirling and Glasgow starts on Monday 19 May.

Mr Cahill said each journey between Alloa and Stirling should only take about 10 minutes.

He said: "The track is very straight forward. There are three CCTV level crossings and a loop at Cambus if freight and passenger trains need to pass each other."




SEE ALSO
Train line reopens after 40 years
15 May 08 |  Tayside and Central
Celebrations set for rail opening
09 May 08 |  Tayside and Central
First train in 40 years arrives
02 Apr 08 |  Tayside and Central
Station parking 'still on track'
16 Feb 08 |  Tayside and Central
Work starts on new railway line
02 Oct 06 |  Tayside and Central
Rail link plan given green light
18 Aug 05 |  Scotland

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