VIP passengers have included the Queen and two of Britain's best-loved actresses - and now Exbury Gardens in the New Forest is hoping to steam ahead with plans to extend the narrow gauge railway that has transporting visitors around the site since 2001.

The award-winning attraction has applied for consent to build a quarter-mile extension to the line.

If the application is granted by the New Forest National Park Authority (NPA), visitors will be able to view a section of the site that is not currently open to the public.

Exbury is also seeking permission to build gravel tracks and a picnic area.

But people living near the gardens, which already attract thousands of visitors a year, say there must be no increase in noise or litter.

Ken Robinson, representing the residents of Gilbury Lane, has told the NPA: "We have no objection to the proposed extension of the railway and the creation of related facilities provided there is no increase in the use of train whistles, that litter related to the picnic site is well managed and that all conditions that were applied to the original development of the railway are maintained."

The railway, which includes a bridge, a tunnel and a viaduct, is currently one-and-a-half miles long.

In 2008 passengers were joined by the Queen, who rode in the cab of a steam locomotive after naming it in a private ceremony.

Three years later it was the turn of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall to board the train. Award-winning actresses Judi Dench and Maggie Smith have also travelled on the "Exbury Express".

Owned by a branch of the Rothschild family, the gardens have been open to the public since the 1950s.

An Exbury spokesman said the railway would be extended to include an area known as North Lake and Dragonfly Pond if permission were granted.

"It's an area of the gardens that isn’t currently accessible to the public so this will open it up for their enjoyment," she said.

"The cost of the project is being minimised by the Exbury railway team and volunteers undertaking a large part of the work themselves."

Supporters of the planning application include the district council's employment and tourism manager, Anthony Climpson.

He said: "Exbury Gardens is one of the most important visitor attractions in the New Forest. It diverts visitor traffic away from the Forest itself and provides a unique attraction in its own right."