Waterside railway campaign calls for district council backing

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Waterside railway line
Cllr David Harrison is pushing for the Waterside railway line to be reopened to passengers

CAMPAIGNERS pushing to re-open the Waterside railway line to passengers are hoping to recruit the support of New Forest District Council.

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Cllr David Harrison, who is leading the drive, will put a motion to a full meeting tonight (Monday) at the authority’s Appletree Court HQ in Lyndhurst.

He argues that a train service would alleviate pressure on the busy A326 which some locals fear will become clogged by cars from 1,500 new homes proposed at Fawley power station, despite promises to upgrade the road.

The motion by Cllr Harrison, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group, is for NFDC to “wholeheartedly support” the rail project as part of strategic transport infrastructure for the planned development.

It states: “Officers will be tasked to work closely with Hampshire County Council staff to ensure oversight on planning issues and economic and environmental viability are maintained and resolved.”

Cllr Harrison will have to win the backing of highways authority HCC which has been sceptical of the idea ever since a downbeat project assessment it commissioned in 2013. The line was closed to passengers in 1966.

Engineering consultant Halcrow Group Ltd concluded that passenger services could be developed for a “relatively modest” investment – but that demand was “not sufficient”.

The plan has also been challenged by Fawley councillor Alan Alvey who told the A&T in June that it would be very difficult to bring trains south through the secure oil refinery to reach passengers at the power station development. Without a nearby train station they would simply drive, he said.

However, Cllr Harrison reports increasing support for his idea and said he had been working with Nick Farthing, who chairs the Eastleigh-based Three Rivers Community Rail Partnership of local authorities, residents and the rail industry.

Cllr Harrison said recently: “I have done many surveys and posts, asking for feedback about the plans over the years. The project always gets overwhelming support.

“For commercial reasons, I cannot release much of the detail at this stage, but I think we are largely where we need to be in terms of a business case, acquiring the trains / units, scheduling so as not to worsen the train gate closures in Totton, making sure we have the right trains that won’t cause a noise nuisance, utilising the right technology.”

As reported in the A&T, Cllr Maureen Holding has also called for the line to be reopened, warning that extra road traffic could “clog” up nearby villages.

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