A direct appeal to the Scottish Government for funding to ensure Winchburgh will get a railway station is to be backed by West Lothian Council, less than a month after doubts about development were first cast.
Livingston Conservative councillor Alison Adamson told a meeting of the council’s executive that for Transport Scotland to ignore the demands of commuters would “make a mockery of active travel promotion.”
She said that residents in surrounding towns wanted the new station as much as those living in Winchburgh, and cited the surge in commuter traffic accessing stations at Linlithgow, Uphall Station and even Bathgate.
Conservative group leader Damian Doran-Timson proposed an option for the council to approach the Scottish Government to make a case for funding, with the developer of Winchburgh, Winchburgh Developments Ltd (WDL).
While the railway station has been considered part of the Winchburgh development plan from the outset, Transport Scotland, the national transport infrastructure agency, would not allow the delivery of the station to be a condition as part of the original planning consent as, at the time , further work on the business case for the station was required.
But as a deadline approaches for WDL to provide a transport strategy doubts have arisen that a station will be built because of potentially huge increase in costs – up to £20m – and the belief that numbers of commuters are dropping because of pandemic related work from home policies.
Almost 1000 new homes have been built in the village and WDL has to produce a long term transport strategy.
Head of planning, Craig McCorriston, said he understood Transport Scotland had completed improvements to the Edinburgh/Glasgow line, including timetables, and was now in a position to consider a station for Winchburgh.
West Lothian Council has had little input into the process which has mainly been discussion between the developers and Transport Scotland.
Mr McCorriston told the meeting that council officers had now proposed the accessing of funding from the City Region Deal which provides funding for region wide economic development, to back up any financial shortfall and support a station plan.
Any public transport strategy which does not include a rail link is considered sub-optimal by the council for the long term.
Local councillor Janet Campbell, for the SNP, said that the local MSP, Angela Constance, was trying to pull together a meeting of the developers, Transport Scotland and ScotRail to push the proposals ahead and called on West Lothian Council to support that.
Councillor Adamson said: “It’s important to note although this is a main line between Edinburgh and Glasgow the places in between are just as important. If Transport Scotland doesn’t realize that people are moving out of the cities so that they can use public transport then it makes a mockery of the whole active travel that is being promoted.”
Council leader Lawrence Fitzpatrick, chairing the meeting, said he hoped that the council would have more involvement in the plan and added: “Transport Scotland, way back in 2011, would not allow the council to oblige the developer to provide a rail station. Had that been there I’m sure we would have had a station by now.”
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