MULTI-million-pound plans to reopen a railway line that closed almost 50 years ago look set to hit the buffers.

A new report says that the scheme is unlikely to secure the necessary funding – mainly because of the “low demand” for a new rail service.

The Totton to Fawley line closed to passengers in the 1960s and is used only by freight trains going to Fawley oil refinery.

In 2009 the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) said that the line should be reopened to ease congestion on the A326 and other roads between Southampton and the Waterside.

The £17m proposal includes new stations at Hythe and Hounsdown.

Hampshire County Council and other organisations, including Network Rail and South West Trains, have spent several years examining the business case for reopening the line as far as Hythe.

But a county council report cites the “relatively low level of demand” for a new passenger service on the Waterside.

The report says: “The scheme would cost more to construct and operate than it would provide in benefits. It is therefore highly unlikely to be successful in securing funding for either capital construction costs or ongoing subsidy costs.”

The report also warns that even a poorly-used service would have a serious impact on buses and the Hythe ferry.

It adds: “A rail service would result in over-provision of transport options for the size of the market. Should the size of the market change appreciably in the future, due to an increase in the local population or increased economic activity, the business case would change and would need to be reviewed.”

The report concludes that the county council should not commit any more money or resources to the project.

But Cllr David Harrison, who represents Totton and Marchwood, said that Cllr Sean Woodward, executive member for economy, transport and environment, had agreed to defer a decision.

Cllr Harrison attended Cllr Woodward’s decision-day meeting in Winchester and complained that key stakeholders had not been consulted. He also called for the latest consultants’ report, known as GRIP 3, to be made more widely available.

After the meeting Cllr Harrison said: “The project is still on track but is in danger of being shelved. I want to make sure everyone has a chance to read and consider the GRIP 3 study.”