RECONNECTING St Andrews to Britain's rail network would create strong demand for train travel and a profitable railway route, a feasibility study has concluded.

Research by Tata Steel Projects has recommended building a station and line spanning nearly five miles between the town and East Coast Main Line at a cost of £71 million, which would enable rail passengers to travel to Dundee in under 20 minutes – much quicker than the journey by road.

Its report, published yesterday, found that profits of up to £1.6m a year would outstrip the operating cost of the railway but that capital funding would be needed to construct it.

The Scottish Government, which last month launched a £30m fund to build new stations and improve existing ones, asked for further research to be undertaken to see if it was viable.

St Andrews has been one of the largest towns in Scotland without direct access to rail travel since 1969 when its branch line was closed as part of the Beeching cuts. The nearest station is five miles away at Leuchars, though campaigners say bus connections are unreliable.

The latest report, which was funded by the St Andrews Rail Link Campaign (Starlink), was welcomed by St Andrews University, whose 8000 students are the only ones in Scotland who do not have a rail station.

Reinstating the old route would be difficult as it would cause disruption to the golf links and part of the station has been used as a car park, the study found.

It instead proposed a route which hugged the A91, concluding that the ensuing rail journeys would see a journey of one hour, 19 minutes to Edinburgh and one hour, 14 minutes in the opposite direction.

A spokeswoman for Government agency Transport Scotland said: "The proposals must be discussed with the local regional transport partnership, SEStran, and a STAG appraisal considering all transport options, not just rail, must be carried out."