FAWLEY refinery is about to stop using a Hampshire railway line in a move that could destroy hopes for a new passenger service.

Trains on the freight-only Totton to Fawley line deliver crude oil to the huge petro-chemical complex, the largest facility of its type in the UK.

The refinery has denied that its decision to stop using the route will result in a huge number of extra road tankers on local roads.

But ExxonMobil’s announcement has fuelled fears that passenger services on the Waterside will never be re-introduced.

Stations on the line were closed in 1966 and the imminent loss of the only trains still using it has led to speculation that the track will be ripped up.

Campaigners have spent years trying to persuade the authorities to provide commuters with an alternative to the A326 and other traffic-choked roads.

A refinery spokesman said 99 per cent of all crude oil delivered to Fawley arrived by ship.

He added: “Rail-based deliveries are no longer economic and will cease at the end of this month. In future all crude used in the refinery will arrive by ship – none will be transported by road.”

The announcement received a mixed reaction from Waterside county councillor David Harrison.

He said: “I’m very relieved that Exxon are saying there will be no extra road traffic as a result of this decision and I will be monitoring matters to ensure this is the case.

“However, it’s unfortunate as far as the railway line is concerned.

“I’m fearful that lack of use will mean the line is allowed to fall into disrepair and impact on the ambition to restore a passenger service.”

In 2009 the Association of Train Operating Companies called for passenger services on the line to be re-introduced to ease congestion on local roads.

Hampshire County Council looked at the idea but three years ago said it failed to meet the business case requirements set out by Network Rail, which owns the track.