Train tests the tracks for potential reopening of Waterside line

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waterside line
From left, managing director of South Western Railway Mark Hopwood, Network Rail chair Sir Peter Hendy and rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris

A SOUTH Western Railway train has been run on the Totton-to-Hythe line to investigate its potential reopening more than 50 years after regular passenger services stopped.

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This follows a successful submission to the Department for Transport’s Restoring Your Railway Fund by Hampshire County Council which will enable it to carry out a study into reopening the line for passenger services.

The run was made possible by a collaboration between South Western Railway and Network Rail, which had to cut back undergrowth, test the condition of the track and prepare the crew.

Among the passengers was the rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris, Network Rail chair Sir Peter Hendy and representatives from Hampshire County and Southampton City councils.

Also on board was Nick Farthing, chair of Three Rivers Community Rail Partnership, which has long campaigned for the reopening of the line.

South Western Railway (SWR) said: “Whilst there is still work to be done before passenger services can resume, the national focus in expanding the rail network by utilising disused lines provides hope that a return of services for this part of Hampshire maybe a step closer to reality, helping to reconnect communities and promote public transport.”

Mr Heaton-Harris said: “It is almost precisely 95 years since the line between Southampton and Fawley opened. Yet, due to the Beeching cuts, the last time passengers were able to travel this line England were lifting the Jules Rimet [World Cup].

“While we can’t guarantee sporting supremacy again, we’ve been absolutely clear that we are determined to reconnect communities and level up infrastructure across the country. Taking steps towards restoring passenger journeys on lines like this demonstrates that commitment.

“The progress towards developing a business case for this restoration is testament to the energy and enthusiasm of local campaigners, and I share the passion they and other communities have to reopen and restore local lines.”

Mark Hopwood, managing director of SWR said: “Branch lines are vital to connect local communities, with many now out of use. Exploring the possibility of reopening disused lines for rail passengers is vital for us to reconnect our communities.”

Mr Hendy commented: “Railways have a huge role to play in building environmentally-sustainable economic and social development, and places like Marchwood, where the railway is still in place, are perfect examples of where we can help local communities grow.

“It’s great to see a passenger train down this line again, and this has been a really useful event for our partners to understand what we might have to do to bring trains back permanently.”

Cllr Rob Humby HCC’s cabinet member for economy, transport and environment, said: “Hampshire County Council was very pleased that our bid to the Department for Transport’s Restoring Your Railway Fund was successful and we now look forward to working with the Department for Transport, Network Rail and stakeholders to review the evidence and undertake a business case for re-introducing passenger rail services on the Waterside line.”

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