THERE'S an "element of optimism" that a rail halt may finally arrive at the Halbeath park and ride.

Fife Council has been arguing the case for trains stopping at the transport hub since 2013 but a lack of funding has shunted the idea into the sidings.

The Fife Circle runs right by the site and last week, during a discussion on multi-million pound transport improvements for Dunfermline, there was a glimmer of light.

At the policy and co-ordination committee, service manager John Mitchell told councillors: "We've been asked by Transport Scotland, in terms of the review of the national transport strategy and the associated strategic transport projects review that's ongoing at the moment, to supply the details for that project.

"In terms of Halbeath and a station, that's being considered in a strategic piece of work that's focused over the next six months or so and we'll see what the outcome is.

"Maybe there's an element of optimism that they've asked for the details to be included, hopefully it is."

The council views a halt as key for the transport network given the major housing expansion that will be taking place in Dunfermline.

There are 1,400 new homes planned between Halbeath and Kingseat, part of the 8,000 that councillors were told last week will be built in the town over the next 30 years.

Mr Mitchell told the Press: "Transport Scotland, as rail authority, is responsible for developing and implementing the rail halt and is currently reviewing the Strategic Transport Projects Review 2 (STPR 2), which informs strategic transport investment in Scotland over the next 20 years.

"The Halbeath rail halt proposal is included within that process and has progressed through phase one of the assessment and is being taken forward to phase two, which will help determine the committed schemes within the finalised STPR 2 which is programmed to be published in late 2021."

Calls for a rail halt go back to November 2013 when the council's transport spokesman, Councillor Pat Callaghan, raised the issue with transport minister Keith Brown at the opening ceremony of the £10 million Halbeath park and ride.

Mr Brown invited an application for funding and Cllr Callaghan later told the Press: "The park and ride is there and the railway line is less than 40 yards from the car park.

"It would take no more than £7 million, could happen quickly and we both score, the Scottish Government and Fife Council.

“It’s a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned for £7m."

However, despite repeated calls over the years, the plans have gone nowhere.

Mr Mitchell said the council remained "fully supportive" of the proposal and that it's been raised regularly with Network Rail, ScotRail and the Scottish Government "as part of network improvements and future service considerations".

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “Scottish ministers are committed to ensuring the railway meets future growth needs and are willing to consider proposals for new stations, or re-opening existing ones, that arise from a positive transport appraisal which takes account of the impact on the wider rail network."

Fife Council were awarded £170,000 through the Local Rail Development Fund in 2018 to carry out appraisal studies on cross-Forth transport opportunities, and put forward an option for a rail halt at Halbeath.

The spokesperson added: “While it is too early to say if this rail halt will be considered for re-opening as part of this appraisal process, if Fife Council’s appraisals provide robust strategic business cases we will consider them for potential further funding or support through our rail pipeline process.

“The provision of a rail station at Halbeath will also be subject to further appraisal as part of STPR 2.”