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Railwatch 072 - July 1997

Where the cars come first

By David Hansen

A new station should be taking shape by now at Dalgety Bay in Fife.

But so far the only work done on the station has been to build a car park! No railway work has yet started.

The October and December 1996 issues of Railwatch contained descriptions of the troubled history of Dalgety Bay station, the first in Scotland to be built after rail privatisation. It was assumed that when the railway companies were sorted out the station would go ahead quickly. This has not happened.

How did this strange situation arise? In a nutshell, Fife Council was not very switched on. The station site is occupied by a café, which was moved there when a bypass was built nearby.

The intention was to move the café again while the station was built. Relations between the café owner and Fife Council have been strained for some time over terms for this move. The council failed to serve a proper notice to quit on the cafe owner, who then made a legal case to remain.

After a protracted legal process, involving the Sheriff, the council gained the extract of decree, allowing them to evict the café owner, in mid-March. The next day the café entrance was blocked with boulders, and customers and the owners were evicted by a Sheriff Officer acting for Fife Council.

This drama caused some consternation, but the next day the café was open again following an appeal to the Sheriff Principal! Both Fife Council and the café owner were criticised by the Sheriff Principal at a subsequent hearing.

However the appeal was recently won by Fife Council and, unless there is a further appeal, construction of the station itself should start shortly. It is not clear if an appeal will be made to the Court of Session and the House of Lords.

These could delay construction for a long time. There is also the possibility of non-legal appeals to the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Ombudsman.

Fife Council was rightly highly critical of the railway companies last year, who were not acting in the most go-ahead manner over the station.

Now Fife Council has shown it cannot proceed speedily either, it has been much more muted in its criticism of delays.

RDS Scotland criticised the railway companies too, but we also have to record our criticism of Fife Council in allowing the legal problem to fester for far too long.

It is interesting that people objecting to a road scheme are mercilessly ejected by the police and hired hands, using a whole range of new laws. However, people objecting to a railway station are treated entirely differently by the law.

Let's hope that this last delay is the final one and the project will now go ahead quickly. This station should have been built in the 1970s when Dalgety Bay was built.

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