HAMPSHIRE'S train network is one of Britain's most underfunded and urgently needs a major cash injection to cope with rocketing passenger numbers, according to a top rail boss.

South West Trains commercial director Sam McCarthy said urgent investment was required to cope with a 40 per cent increase in train users in the next 30 years.

But Mrs McCarthy warned a meeting of Hampshire business and political leaders that they would have to lobby hard to win the funding from the UK's cash strapped Government.

She said: “In terms of investment it comes at a bad time for UK PLC, it has not got significant amounts of money.

“And this area has had the lowest amount of investment out of the whole railway for years.”

She also told the Solent Transport meeting in Portsmouth yesterday that if nothing was done soon more and more passengers would be left standing all the way from Hampshire to London.

Currently 70 to 85 per cent of trains going into London are full. But in 30 years time all seats would be taken with 40 per cent of passengers standing.

The latest Passenger Focus survey shows already only 43 per cent of passengers using trains to and from London say there is sufficient room for seating or event standing.

Reflecting the thoughts of passengers frustrated by issues suffered on the network, she said: “Our train performance is not where it needs to be. It feels like it is getting worse."

“We know people are standing from as far away as Southampton Airport Parkway. That is still a long time to be standing for.

“But the demand is such that there are no other options available.”

To deal with surging demand, she suggested that:

· Twelve carriage trains and two more services should be introduced · Southampton Central Station needs more platforms

· Lines to Southampton should have overhead electrification

· Increased capacity on the Basingstoke to Eastleigh

· Double-decker trains could introduced from Basingstoke

Mrs McCarthy called on political and business leaders to back South West Trains in lobbying the Government for a slice of the investment for the Wessex route which runs through Hampshire.

She said: “It is a bit frustrating because historically there has been years of underinvestment that has got us here. And we have to fix it.”

Speaking after the meeting, Southampton transport boss Jacqui Rayment said: “It's a real clear message that we collectively need to demonstrate the need and I think we can do that because the business case is there.”