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Let Saints use local rail link
LET the train take the strain. The Daily Echo says: The answer to Saints parking problems is lying just a few hundred yards away from its new stadium - the old Northam railway station.
Thousands of fans cold be transported to and from home matches every match day if South West Trains were persuaded to reopen the neglected station and put on football specials.
Yesterday our call was backed by leading Labour councillor Paul Russell who broke ranks with fellow councillors to object to many of Saints' proposals to create more than 30 satellite car parks for up to 9,000 cars scattered across the city.
He also attacked attacked Saints for waiting until the 11th hour to ask for permission for parking sites - and said they should revisit building rail links to overcome their problems.
"I understand there will be up to 6,000 fans walking through the centre of the city from the central railway station.
"The football club has had ample opportunity to sort out the infrastructure around the stadium.
"This was the ideal opportunity for them to open up the railway line down at Northam - and we could have had a truly integrated transport plan," he said.
Councillor Russell joined opposition councillors to vote against sites including two university venues and two city centre schools.
Opposing the application to use St Mary's CE School in Golden Grove, he said more should have been done to see if regeneration funds could be used to finance a railway station.
"We should have explored this more and seen whether regeneration funds could have been used in some way," he said.
It took six hours to deal with 12 applications for park-and-ride and park-and-walk sites - three times longer than anticipated.
Angry residents complained they had been kept in the dark about the parking plans and said the council was being forced into agreeing applications with only weeks to go before opening.
Councillor Russell summed up the mood of the public when he said: "This is one I won't support because at the end of the day there is going to be utter chaos."
At the end of the epic planning session, managing director of Southampton Football Club Andrew Cowen said he was pleased that only three applications had failed to win support and explained that Saints bosses had "something up our sleeves" to meet the parking shortfall of 276 parking spaces.
A further 135 spaces need to be found to cover the loss of the Sholing Middle School site which was withdrawn after pressure from campaigners - including leader of the council June Bridle.
Commenting on the rail plans Mr Cowen said: "It is not possible to put a rail link on our site - there is no room. The alternatives were to put a railway station elsewhere on the west bank of the Itchen.
"The city council discussed this with Anglia Rail - those discussions came to nothing. There are no plans to re-open part of the old Northam station because part of the land is now a school playground.
"The only option available is to look for a railway station elsewhere - this is part of our on-going plans," he said.
A spokesman for South West Trains said: "The stretch of line near the Northam station is one of the busiest tracks outside of London, and is used by people travelling to Eastleigh, Portsmouth and Southampton.
"The problem is that we are already running at capacity across the network and opening the station would only cause further delays to passengers travelling on that line, which we do not want to do.
"It would simply cause too many delays. Northam has been closed for many years and there is also no way of telling how much it would cost to re-open it.
"There is simply too much traffic, and it is therefore unlikely that we would consider re-opening the station.
"But we would be happy to talk to Southampton FC to see what else can be done to help."