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Waterside railway line supporters celebrate £7m budget development funding

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CAMPAIGNERS for reopening the Waterside railway line to passengers are celebrating after the chancellor allocated £7m for the project in the budget this week.

The cash is for three years of development funding from 2021/22 to 2024/25 to bring back public services between Totton and Fawley.

Cllr David Harrison, of Totton and Marchwood, has for years been pushing for the line to reopen to help alleviate traffic on the A326 and ahead of the planned development of 1,500 homes at the old Fawley power station.

Cllr David Harrison
Cllr David Harrison

He was "delighted" at the news – but highlighted that the scheme will require more investment to become a reality.

He said: "This is a very respectable sum towards progressing matters and shows that government has been convinced by the business, environmental and social benefits of bringing the service back.

"I know that it will require some further investment down the line, depending on what the precise specification is agreed, especially the type of trains to be used.

"However, even if it starts with diesel trains, that is far greener than the equivalent number of cars that won't have to travel up and down the busy A326 and beyond."

There have been concerns raised, however, such as train gates clogging up smaller roads with more frequent services passing through.

As reported in the A&T, the plan has been gathering a head of steam since HCC backed more exploratory work after previously casting down on the business case.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Picture: PA
Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Picture: PA

A recent £50,000 feasibility study has been carried out into the project, and last year New Forest District Council voted unanimously in support.

No public trains have run on the route for 50 years but in 2020 South Western Railway made a successful test journey.

There was little detail in the budget about how the new £7m funding would be spent. The A&T has asked Hampshire County Council, the transport authority, for comment.

The money was among £500m from the government, much of which has already been allocated, to restore transport services lost in the Beeching cuts of the 1960s and improve local connectivity.

The latest local handout was the biggest share of among £13m, including relaunching railway stations in Wellington in Somerset and Cullompton in Devon, plus to develop 13 early-stage proposals to restore rail connections across England and Wales.

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