PROPOSALS to reopen a Hampshire rail route that closed more than 50 years ago have received a major boost.

The government has allocated £7m towards the cost of progressing the scheme, which aims to reintroduce passenger trains on the Totton to Hythe branch line, which was built in the 1920s.

Public services fell victim to the infamous Beeching cuts imposed in the 1960s.

But freight trains continued to serve Marchwood Military Port and Fawley refinery, which means the rails, signals and level crossings are still in place, along with the former Marchwood station.

Campaigners calling for passenger services to be restored include Hampshire county councillor David Harrison, who represents Totton and Marchwood.

Cllr Harrison cited the huge amount of preparation work that needed to be carried out, including plans to upgrade the platforms, signals and crossings, which would be automatic.

He said some of the money should be used to offset the negative aspects of the scheme by installing acoustic barriers or planting extra trees in places where the line was close to homes.

The government handout coincides with plans to increase the amount of activity at the military port.

Cllr Harrison said: "The important thing for local people to know is that the line is going to be extensively used for freight traffic in the future, so the passenger service project provides an opportunity and the resources to mitigate some of the noise nuisance."

Supporters of the project say the restoration of passengers services on the line would ease pressure on the A326.

The number of vehicles using the road is likely to rise sharply if Fawley Waterside forges ahead with a £1bn project to build up to 1,500 homes on the former power station site.

Cllr Harrison said he was "delighted" at the decision to award £7m towards the cost of reopening the line.

Posting on social media he said: "This is a very respectable sum towards progressing matters and shows that government has been convinced by the business, environmental and social benefits of bringing the service back.

"I know it will require further investment, depending on what specification is agreed, especially the type of trains to be used."

Cllr Harrison conceded that the scheme might start with diesel trains, but also referred to the potential reduction in traffic on the A326 and other roads.