The government has included the planned Leicester-Burton railway among 10 that could possibly get the green light.
The Campaign to Reopen the Ivanhoe Line (CRIL) said the final stage of the case to reopen the line to paying passengers had been approved by the government.
This means funding will be provided to Network Rail to work with the campaign group to work on developing a business case. If approved, the line – currently used for freight – could reopen to passengers with stations in Coalville, Ashby, Sinope, Stephenson Industrial Estate and Moira, as well as nearby stops in Derbyshire.
It would be the first passenger trip to the area since 1964 as part of the Beeching Cuts.
Announcing that she will support 10 proposals to reopen closed passenger lines in England, Minister for Railways Wendy Morton, MP, said: “The ministry’s assessment took into account the strategic and economic case presented, the deliverability program and infrastructure needs, with emphasis on the transport issue and strength of the case for intervention.
“This project has significant potential to improve community connectivity along the Ivanhoe Line route and I look forward to seeing it progress.”
CRIL spokesperson Douglas McLay said: “We are delighted with this announcement which brings the reopening of the Ivanhoe line much closer.
“Passenger services on the line would provide real value for the relatively modest government investment required.
“Reopening this railway would be a real boost to the often forgotten people of South Derbyshire and North West Leicestershire.
“We look forward to working closely with the Department for Transport and Network Rail to provide a rail service that meets the needs of local people.”
There have been growing calls for passenger trains to run along the Ivanhoe Line in recent years to provide an alternative for travelers on increasingly congested routes.
The move has been backed by authorities, including North West Leicestershire District Council, with arguments that it would help reduce the number of people having to travel miles to their nearest stations, thus reducing general road use.
Campaigners say it also promotes the environmental benefits of rail and the line benefits from having one of the stops at one of Leicester’s three park and ride sites.