A PROJECT to investigate reopening the Waterside railway line for passengers has been granted a share of £500m government funding.
As previously reported in the A&T, Hampshire County Council launched a funding bid in March following the announcement at the start of the year by transport secretary Grant Shapps confirming the government had set aside the money in order to reverse previous cuts to passenger services decades earlier.
The rail route closed to the public in the late 1960s but continued to serve Marchwood military port and, until a few years ago, Fawley oil refinery.
Reopening it to passengers has already been backed by Hythe and Dibden and Marchwood parish councils.
Cllr David Harrison, who represents Totton and Marchwood at a town, district and county level, has campaigned for a decade to have the line reopened to passengers.
Commenting on the news that it had been chosen for funding, he said: “I am absolutely delighted that the Department of Transport have selected the project to restore a passenger service along the Waterside railway line as one of the top ten priorities for the £500m funding available for getting new train services up and running.
“I know that not everybody is supportive but I honestly believe that the reservations I have listened to and will continue to listen to can be properly dealt with.
“There is almost no project that doesn’t have some potential downsides. Nobody wants to see long closures of the Totton train gates, for example. If I didn’t think these things could be resolved, or that the benefits didn’t outweigh the disadvantages, I wouldn’t support them.”
He also praised the work of Nick Farthing, chair of the not-for-profit Three Rivers Community Rail Partnership and his team, which backed the plans.
Mr Farthing had previously told Hythe and Dibden Parish Council that reinstating the railway would cost around £20m-£30m to implement. He said he hoped a trial service would begin within 18 months to two years, with the line completely open within three to five years.
The original station building in Marchwood could be reopened, he said, but a new station would have to be built in Hythe as the original is now a heritage centre.
Further along the line would be another new station, Hythe and Fawley Parkway, which would include a park-and-ride facility. The trains would not run through Fawley refinery.
A statement from Grant Shapps said: “MPs and local authorities were invited to bid for a share of the fund to help reconnect communities across the country, levelling up opportunities for people in isolated areas by increasing their access to jobs and training, which will be crucial as the country recovers from coronavirus.”