A CAMPAIGN to re-open a Hampshire rail route could be back on track - four years after it appeared to have hit the buffers.

Hampshire County Council is taking a fresh look at the case for passenger trains returning to the branch line that links Totton with villages on the Waterside.

The line closed to commuters in the 1960s after falling victim to the Beeching cuts that devastated Britain’s railway network.

But hundreds of homes are due to be built in the Waterside area under plans being drawn up by New Forest District Council and Fawley Waterside, the consortium behind proposals to bulldoze the former Fawley Power Station and redevelop the site.

This has fuelled fears that congestion on the A326 and other roads in the area is set to grow worse.

Campaigners have spent eight years putting the case for passenger trains on the Waterside line.

Now the prospect of the service being reinstated appears to be a step closer according to county councillor David Harrison, who represents Totton and Marchwood.

Cllr Harrison said council officers were working on the project.

He spoke out after asking Cllr Rob Humby, executive member for the environment, if a forum relating to transport schemes in the south would be used to progress the scheme.

Cllr Humby replied: “That’s something we’re doing some work on at the moment. We plan to pull it all together and take it forward at the appropriate time.”

Speaking after the debate Cllr Harrison said: “That’s an encouraging response.I think people are waking up to the fact that there will be a lot of development down the Waterside, including hundreds of new homes. This makes a passenger line all the more necessary, for social and environmental reasons, and tips it in favour of becoming financially viable.”

In 2009 the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) said the line should be reopened to ease congestion on the A326 and other roads between Southampton and the Waterside.

As reported in the Daily Echo, ATOC put forward a £17m proposal that included new stations at Hythe and Hounsdown.

But a county council report published in 2013 cited the “relatively low level of demand” for a new passenger service on the Waterside.

The former Hythe station has been converted into a research centre run by Waterside Heritage but Marchwood station, including its platform, still exists. Until recently the line was used by trains taking supplies to and from Fawley refinery.