Earlier this week, Network Rail announced that, as part of the Levenmouth Rail Link project, a number of crossing points will be permanently closed from 31st August. The affected routes include the historic Doubledykes right of way, said to have been used by Mary Queen of Scots, and other well-used paths also recorded as rights of way. Network Rail has not put the rights of way over the level crossings through any sufficiently recent legal process to close them, it is again acting unilaterally as at Dalwhinnie. It is clear that ScotWays and Network Rail disagree about the status of the existing routes across the railway but, putting legal questions to one side, what is not in any dispute is that these are crossings well-used and greatly valued by the surrounding local communities.

If Network Rail had undertaken proper consultation with all affected parties from the start of the rail reinstatement process, safe public access could have been incorporated as a key part of the design of this important project. Unfortunately, despite ScotWays and others repeatedly trying over many years to engage with Network Rail to ensure public access was taken into account, we were ignored. That this railway’s reinstatement can have been consented with insufficient public consultation and no apparent assessment of existing patterns of public access is not just incompetent but negligent.

The Levenmouth Rail Link project is undoubtedly a massively positive boost for this part of Fife, and many ScotWays members will be looking forward to using it. There is however an immense irony inherent in building infrastructure that reconnects communities, but by doing so breaks established links between other communities to their detriment.

Local residents are continuing to work hard to defend public access in the face of it having been overlooked by this otherwise laudable rail project. What can you do? Network Rail’s dismissive attitude to public access needs to be politically challenged, so if you are similarly concerned, please contact your elected representatives, whether that be one or all of your local councillors, MSPs and MPs.