Home General Interest Special train investigates possibility of reopening disused branch line

Special train investigates possibility of reopening disused branch line

South Western Railway has run a special ‘fact-finding’ train on the Fawley branch line in Hampshire, to investigate the potential of re-opening it after more than 50 years since regular passenger services ceased.

Hampshire County Council has made a successful submission to the Department for Transport’s ‘Restoring your Railway Fund’ by to carry out a feasibility study into reopening the line for passenger services once more.

As a result, and through cooperation between South Western Railway and Network Rail, who had to cut back undergrowth, test condition of the track and prepare the train crew, this special service was run to investigate the challenges of re-opening this historic branch line.

On board were Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris, Network Rail chair Sir Peter Hendy and representatives from Hampshire County Council and Southampton City Council. They were joined by Nick Farthing, chair of Three Rivers Community Rail Partnership, who hse long campaigned for the opening of the line.

Whilst there is still work to be done before passenger services can resume, the national focus in expanding the rail network by utilising disused lines, provides hope that a return of services for this part of Hampshire maybe a step-closer to reality, helping to reconnect communities and promote public transport.

(Image Left to Right: Mark Hopwood Managing Director, South Western Railway; Sir Peter Hendy, Chair Network Rail; Chris Heaton-Harris MP, Rail Minister).

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “It is almost precisely 95 years since the line between Southampton and Fawley opened. Yet, due to the Beeching cuts, the last time passengers were able to travel this line England were lifting the Jules Rimet.

“While we can’t guarantee sporting supremacy again, we’ve been absolutely clear that we are determined to reconnect communities and level up infrastructure across the country. Taking steps towards restoring passenger journeys on lines like this demonstrates that commitment.

“The progress towards developing a business case for this restoration is testament to the energy and enthusiasm of local campaigners, and I share the passion they and other communities have to reopen and restore local lines.” 

Mark Hopwood, Managing Director of South Western Railway said: “Branch lines are vital to connect local communities, with many now out of use. Exploring the possibility of reopening disused lines for rail passengers is vital for us to reconnect our communities again.”

Network Rail Chair Sir Peter Hendy said: “Railways have a huge role to play in building environmentally-sustainable economic and social development and places like Marchwood, where the railway is still in place, are perfect examples of where we can help local communities grow. It’s great to see a passenger train down this line again and this has been a really useful event for our partners to understand what we might have to do to bring trains back permanently.”

Councillor Rob Humby, Deputy Leader of Hampshire County Council and Executive Member for Economy, Transport and Environment, said: “Hampshire County Council was very pleased that our bid to the Department for Transport’s restoring Your railways Fund was successful and we now look forward to working with the Department for Transport, Network Rail and stakeholders to review the evidence and undertake a business case for re-introducing passenger rail services on the Waterside

Nigel Wordsworth BSc(Hons) MCIJhttp://therailengineer.com

SPECIALIST AREAS Rolling stock, mechanical equipment, project reports, executive interviews


Nigel Wordsworth graduated with an honours degree in Mechanical Engineering from Nottingham University, after which he joined the American aerospace and industrial fastener group SPS Technologies. After a short time at the research laboratories in Pennsylvania, USA, Nigel became responsible for applications engineering to industry in the UK and Western Europe. At this time he advised on various engineering projects, from Formula 1 to machine tools, including a particularly problematic area of bogie design for the HST.

A move to the power generation and offshore oil supply sector followed as Nigel became director of Entwistle-Sandiacre, a subsidiary of the Australian-owned group Aurora plc. At the same time, Nigel spent ten years as a Technical Commissioner with the RAC Motor Sports Association, responsible for drafting and enforcing technical regulations for national and international motor racing series.

Joining Rail Engineer in 2008, Nigel’s first assignment was a report on new three-dimensional mobile mapping and surveying equipment, swiftly followed by a look at vegetation control machinery. He continues to write on a variety of topics for most issues.

2 COMMENTS

  1. So the tracks were left down the 50 years since the last train ran?

    Or was it still used as an infrequent freight line so had some basic maintenance done? Ah! Wikipedia to the rescue: The line serves the freight needs of Marchwood Military Port, having also served the same function for Fawley Refinery until 2016.

    Shame there’s no photos of the train travelling on the branch line itself for the first time, just the PR shots at the station.

  2. I worked freight trains on the Fawley branch between 1975 and 1978 when it was quite busy with oil, bitumen and gas traffic, with additional mixed trains to the MOD at Marchwood. The timetable showed that the Fawley line was open 24 hours a day during the week, although there were sometimes several hours between trains. After I changed jobs I learned that oil traffic became less frequent because some of the fuel began to use pipelines. Track and signal maintenance would need to be kept up, although modernisation was unlikely.

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