A FUNDING bid has been launched by Hampshire County Council for money to investigate reinstating passenger services on the Waterside railway line.
The move has added momentum to the campaign which was recently boosted again when New Forest District Council was urged by a panel of councillors to back the idea.
Cllr Rob Humby, HCC cabinet member for economy, transport and environment, told the A&T: “The county council is currently working on a major transport study looking at options for improving access to and from the Waterside, including major upgrades for the A326.
“We have submitted an Expression of Interest for funding from the Department for Transport to undertake a review of the business case for reinstating passenger services on the railway.
“We will consider the case for the re-introduction of passenger rail services alongside other potential measures, such as enhanced bus services, better walking and cycling provision, road enhancements or, most likely, a combination of some or all of these.”
However, he said any decisions would depend on evidence for implementation and running costs, as well as potential benefits to climate change and air quality.
Also considered would be the impact on A326 traffic and at train gates on the route, he said, plus any impact on local bus routes which are free to pensioners.
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.
The latest backing came from a meeting of NFDC’s environment overview and scrutiny panel which agreed a motion urging the full council – when it next meets – to support HCC’s funding bid.
It said: “This council supports the principle of rail transport, and therefore supports the HCC bid for the funding of a feasibility study into the resumption of a rail link along the Waterside as part of a strategic transport infrastructure in the light of planned development in the south waterside area.
“Officers will be tasked to work closely with HCC staff to ensure oversight on planning issues and economic and environmental viability are maintained and resolved.”
Concerns have been raised previously by Marchwood Cllr Sue Bennison, vice-chair of the panel, who predicted congestion from the number of train gates which run through the village.
The motion was originally presented by Cllr David Harrison, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group who has campaigned for years to reopen the line to passengers.
Cllr Harrison said: “I am very happy indeed with this outcome. It’s yet another step in the right direction. The majority of members, both Liberal Democrats and Conservatives, see the sense in a study that will look closely at the business case, as well as other features, including the social and environmental benefits of getting our passenger service.
“I expect a feasibility study to demonstrate that we will not see a worsening of the situation around the train gates, removing a major plank of the objector’s case.”