A TORY MP has criticised the government's "alarming" decision to spend £7m on developing the case for reopening a Hampshire railway line.

Julian Lewis has written to rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris following the "relentless advance" of proposals to restore passenger services on the old Totton to Fawley branch line.

Dr Lewis, who represents New Forest East, has spoken out following announcement made in the Budget by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

His letter says: "The suggestion that a further £7 million should be spent on developing the case for reintroducing a passenger service, before practical problems have been considered, is a frankly alarming development."

Dr Lewis lists some of the issues he fears will arise if the scheme goes ahead. He cites the potential threat to the viability of bus services and the Hythe Ferry, and the extra congestion likely to occur on roads with level crossings.

He is also voices concern about the impact on families living in homes built beside the railway since passenger services ceased in the 1960s.

Other issues raised by the MP include the presence of Fawley refinery, which sprang up after the original line opened in the 1920s. Dr Lewis says trains will probably have to stop at Hythe or somewhere else "well to the north" of Fawley.

His letter refers to "repeated failures" to address major concerns about the practicality of the scheme.

It adds: "My own view remains one of cautious scepticism. I am not against the proposal in principle, provided it can be made to work without creating unacceptable disadvantages."

Supporters of the project include David Harrison, a Liberal Democrat councillor for Totton and Marchwood.

Responding to Dr Lewis, he said people by travelling by train to Southampton and beyond would reduce the overall amount of congestion in Totton.

Referring to existing problems caused by the level crossing in Junction Road he added: "Oddly enough, the introduction of the passenger service represents the best chance of finally getting something done about this."

Cllr Harrison said the line “need not necessarily be in competition” with bus and ferry services in the Waterside area.

“Experience elsewhere has shown that joint ticketing arrangements are very popular. You take a ferry into the city and come back by train, or do things involving buses.”