Fife Circle Line

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Fife Circle Line
Train approaching Dalmeny Station from the Forth Bridge.JPG
Train approaching Dalmeny from the Forth Bridge
Overview
System National Rail
Locale Edinburgh
Fife
Scotland
Operation
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) First ScotRail
Technical
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Fife Circle Line
Markinch
for Edinburgh to
to Aberdeen Line
Glenrothes with Thornton
Cardenden
Kirkcaldy
Lochgelly
Kinghorn
Cowdenbeath
Burntisland
Dunfermline Queen Margaret
Aberdour
Dunfermline Town
Dalgety Bay
Rosyth
Inverkeithing
North Queensferry
Forth Railway Bridge
Firth of Forth
Dalmeny
Edinburgh Gateway
proposed
South Gyle
Haymarket
Edinburgh Waverley
for East Coast Main Line

The Fife Circle is the local rail service north from Edinburgh. It links towns of south Fife and the coastal towns along the Firth of Forth before heading to Edinburgh.[1] Operationally, the service is not strictly a circle route, but, rather, a point to point service that reverses at the Edinburgh end, and has a large bi-directional balloon loop at the Fife end.

Service[edit]

The service includes the Edinburgh-Kirkcaldy stretch of the East Coast Main Line, which includes the world-famous Forth Bridge. On the Fife side, while this line hugs the coast, the circle is formed by a line from Inverkeithing that loops back round to Kirkcaldy by an inland route via Cowdenbeath through the old Fife coalfield. Narrowly speaking, just this line could be called the Fife Circle.

The current service is actually a combination of two previously separate local routes - Edinburgh to Kirkcaldy & Edinburgh to Cowdenbeath & Cardenden. During the 1970s & 80s British Rail only ran a regular daytime service on the Dunfermline line as far as Cowdenbeath; Lochgelly & Cardenden were only served during the weekday business peaks (as can be seen from Table 242 of the UK All Line timetable of that era), whilst the remainder of the route to Thornton Junction was freight-only (having been closed to passengers in 1969). All local stopping trains on the coast line meanwhile terminated at Kirkcaldy.

In 1989 though, BR decided to link the two services together by reopening the eastern end of the old Edinburgh and Northern Railway Dunfermline branch to passenger traffic and run an 'out & back' service from Edinburgh from the start of the summer timetable in May that year.[2] Three years later (May 1992), a new station was opened at Glenrothes with Thornton at the northern end of the route to serve the town of Glenrothes and restore a rail service to Thornton after an absence of 23 years. This is listed in the timetables as the northern terminal of the Fife Circle and is the point at which certain trains terminate - the rest continue back to Edinburgh along the opposite side of the 'circle'.

There is a goods line connection from Dunfermline to Stirling via Longannet Power Station that rail campaigners would like to reopen to passengers, as it has already been between Stirling and Alloa.[3] The current line via Longannet and Kincardine was last used by passenger trains in 1930, though a Stirling - Alloa - Dunfermline (Upper) service ran via the Stirling and Dunfermline Railway (now closed east of Alloa) until October 1968. Coal trains that formerly crossed the Forth Bridge en route to Longannet Power Station are now rerouted by that line so that the bridge's maximum signalling capacity for trains can be used to increase the local passenger service. The line between Alloa and Dunfermline is not currently signalled to passenger carrying standards. The Fife Circle is a priority for present investment in new rolling stock. Its morning peak services can be notoriously overcrowded.

The operator is now First ScotRail. This is part of First Group, the same company as runs the South Queensferry-Edinburgh bus service 43 that the Fife Circle train parallels from Dalmeny station.

In March 1998, Dalgety Bay opened, while two years later In 2000, a new station was opened in the expanding eastern suburbs of Dunfermline and given the name of Dunfermline Queen Margaret, after the nearby Queen Margaret hospital.

Service patterns[edit]

All services are run by Scotrail.[4]

Edinburgh-bound[edit]

  • 1 tph - Cowdenbeath to Newcraighall, via Dunfermline and Edinburgh.
  • 1 tph - Glenrothes with Thornton to Edinburgh, via Kirkcaldy.
  • 1 tph - Newcraighall, through Dunfermline then Kirkcaldy, and back to Edinburgh.
  • 1 tph - Edinburgh, through Kirkcaldy then Dunfermline, and back to Newcraighall.

Fife-bound[edit]

  • 1 tph - Newcraighall to Cowdenbeath, via Edinburgh and Dunfermline.
  • 1 tph - Edinburgh to Glenrothes with Thornton, via Kirkcaldy.
  • 1 tph - Newcraighall, through Dunfermline then Kirkcaldy, and back to Edinburgh.
  • 1 tph - Edinburgh, through Kirkcaldy then Dunfermline, and back to Newcraighall via Edinburgh.

Fife Circle and Edinburgh Crossrail stations are served by a half-hourly service, with the stations from Inverkeithing to Edinburgh served by four trains per hour.

Stops on the Fife Circle line[edit]

Edinburgh to Fife[edit]

Here the main line and loop line divide.

Loop line[edit]

  • Rosyth serves the town well enough but is on its inland side nowhere near the port. It also serves the south of Dunfermline.
  • Dunfermline Town serves the centre of Dunfermline.
  • Dunfermline Queen Margaret serves Dunfermline's eastern suburbs and is near Queen Margaret hospital.
  • Cowdenbeath, serves the town and the nearby village of Kelty.
  • Lochgelly serves the town and the Benarty coalfield villages.
  • Cardenden serves all areas of the former mining town
  • Glenrothes with Thornton, serves the village of Thornton, and the new town of Glenrothes

Main line[edit]

  • Dalgety Bay serves the modern town with a shining whitewash look and busy railway station.
  • Aberdour serves the village with awards for its "silver sands" quiet beaches.
  • Burntisland serves the seaside resort town facing directly across to Edinburgh.
  • Kinghorn serves the town at the "horn" of the coast where it turns from facing Edinburgh to the open North Sea
  • Kirkcaldy serves the still active old market town hugging the coast with an unusual long sea promenade off the town centre.

The two lines join forming a circle.

Future services[edit]

The east peninsula of Fife beyond Kirkcaldy is not served by railways post-Beeching.[5] At one time a railway ran all the way from Thornton to St Andrews round the coast of Fife. The devolved Scottish government is considering backing a branch reopening to Leven, where a new halt will be built next to the swimming pool and at the disused power station. This is to satisfy the long term upward trend of cross-Forth communications in Fife's economy. Along this branch line is Cameron Bridge. Network Rail have scheduled an inspection and assessment of the freight loading gauge for goods on this line in 2010.

It has also been proposed to start a Burntisland-Leith ferry crossing in order to spread some of the Fife-Edinburgh traffic. A previous attempt at promoting this ferry service as a commuter route failed in 1991.[citation needed] Leith itself, now Edinburgh's government district, is not served by rail but is planned to be linked to the Edinburgh tram network. Leith is also served by some bus routes from south Fife, but these bus services are subject to Forth Road Bridge congestion.

References[edit]