PROPOSALS to reopen a Hampshire railway line closed over 50 years ago have received major momentum.
The government has allocated £ 7million towards the cost of moving the program forward, which aims to reintroduce passenger trains to the Totton-Hythe branch, which was built in the 1920s.
Public services fell victim to the famous Beeching cuts imposed in the 1960s.
But freight trains continued to serve the military port of Marchwood and the refinery at Fawley, meaning that the rails, signals and crossings are still in place, as well as the old Marchwood station.
Campaigners calling for the restoration of passenger services include Hampshire County Councilor David Harrison, who represents Totton and Marchwood.
Cllr Harrison cited the enormous amount of prep work that needed to be done, including plans to upgrade platforms, signals and crossings, which would be automatic.
He said part of the money should be used to offset negative aspects of the project by installing sound barriers or planting additional trees in places where the line was close to homes.
The government document coincides with plans to increase the number of activities in the military port.
Cllr Harrison said: “The important thing the local people need to know is that the line will be used extensively for freight traffic in the future, so the passenger service project provides an opportunity and the resources to alleviate some of the noise.”
Supporters of the project say restoring passenger services on the line would ease pressure on the A326.
The number of vehicles using the road is likely to increase sharply if Fawley Waterside goes ahead with a £ 1bn plan to build up to 1,500 homes on the site of the old power plant.
Cllr Harrison said he was “delighted” with the decision to award £ 7million for the cost of reopening the line.
Posting on social media, he said: “This is a very respectable amount to get things done and shows the government has been convinced by the business, environmental and social benefits of returning the service.
“I know this will require additional investment, depending on the specifications agreed, especially the type of trains to be used.”
Cllr Harrison admitted the program could start with diesel trains, but also spoke of the potential reduction in traffic on the A326 and other routes.