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Plans to reopen railway hit the buffers
7:05pm Tuesday 21st January 2014 in News
A PLAN to reopen a railway that closed almost 50 years ago has hit the buffers.
Transport boss Sean Woodward today formally rejected a proposal to restart a passenger service on the Fawley branch line.
The line was axed In 1966 as a result of savage rail cut backs across the country which followed recommendations made by Dr Richard Beeching.
But a report concluded that the scheme is unlikely to secure the necessary funding – mainly because of the “low demand” for a new rail service.
Making his decision, Cllr Woodward said: "The purpose of the feasibility studies was to work out whether there was actually a viable scheme and if it carried a chance of being delivered.
"And the work that has been carried out shows that the business case was a long way adrift of it being viable.
"It's not that we would like to open a railway line. I would love to open a railway line if the whole thing was viable and stacked up.
"The owner is Network Rail and Network Rail does not support the project and that means we cannot proceed further."
In 2009 the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) suggested the line should be reopened to ease congestion on the A326 and other roads between Southampton and the Waterside.
Costing £17m, the proposal includes new stations at Hythe and Hounsdown.
But a Hampshire County Council report cites the “relatively low level of demand” for a new passenger service on the Waterside which would not justify subsidy or private investment.
The plan had met with opposition among some residents, which included a 439 name petition against it by people living, working and visiting the area.
A big fear among opponents was the impact a revived train line would have on people living next to the line as well as stealing passengers from existing bus service and the historic Hythe ferry.
At a meeting to hear Cllr Woodward's decision on the plan, Marchwood resident Sara Harvey, who started a no campaign, said residents were "absolutely appalled" at the potential threat to the Hythe ferry service.
She said: "The Hythe ferry service is a huge tourist attraction and Hythe pier has the oldest operational pier train in the world.
"This should be treasured and valued as a piece of history, not put at risk by a venture that is not economically viable."
Dibden resident Jeff Callander, an engineer, said the plans would required automated level crossings at a time when Newtwork Rail was phasing them out.
He also claimed there would be traffic jams backing up behind the Marchwood's crossing leading to traffic chaos.
Speaking after the decision meeting, New Forest District councillor Sue Bennison, who opposed the plan, said: "I think it shows the strength of opposition to this from residents, that the people who are most closely affected by this.
"The county council has followed the correct procedure and have come to the conclusion that the business case does not stack up and consider it is not worth the time and money to proceed any further."
But Totton and Marchwood councillor David Harrison, who has campaigned hard to open the line, said the plan could come off the sidings if only local people were officially polled.
He said: "I think it should be possible for the county council to survey the people in Waterside.
"If they did so they would find demand for the service is much greater than has been portrayed by the handful of objectors who puport to represent the majority view, when they clearly do not."
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