PLANS by the government to set aside £500m to restore passenger railway services has been welcomed by campaigners who want to see trains running again on the Waterside.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed on Tuesday the new investment which could reverse some of the infamous cuts made by Dr Richard Beeching in 1963.
MPs, local authorities and community groups across England are now being asked to come forward with proposals on how they could use funding to reinstate axed local rail services.
The Waterside railway line closed to the public in the late 1960s but continued to serve Marchwood Military Port and, until a few years ago, Fawley oil refinery.
Campaigners who hope to see it restored have been spurred on by the recent proposal for 1,500 new homes at the former Fawley power station, which has led to warnings from residents about local roads being clogged with traffic.
Cllr David Harrison has been campaigning for many years to get the line reinstated and said it would be an “ideal project” for the new cash.
He said: “We already have the railway line itself in place. We just need a capital investment of between £20m and £30m to secure the rolling stock, improve the railway platforms and transform the crossings and, if necessary, sound proofing at one or two points along the track.
“Restoring a passenger service, giving people access to a half-hourly service into Southampton and onward connectivity, would be hugely popular and make a contribution towards easing road congestion and the serious problem of air quality.”
The Beeching cuts ended passenger services on around a third of the rail network, closing more than 2,300 stations and up to 5,000 miles of track across the UK.
The possibility of bringing back a Waterside passenger service is set to be discussed at a meeting of Hythe and Dibden Parish Council in February.
At the council’s latest meeting, a presentation was given by Nick Farthing, chairman of the Three Rivers Community Rail Partnership, a not-for-profit group which aims to promote and improve local bus and train services.
The meeting heard that the original station building in Marchwood could be reopened 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.
To allow time to discuss the pros and cons in more depth, members agreed to add the Waterside railway proposals to the agenda of its next meeting on 26th February.