Rail Industry Focus

01.03.12

Welcoming passenger trains back to Waterside

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Feb/March 2012

Adam Hewitt reports on plans to reintroduce passenger services on a branch line in Hampshire.

Proposals to reintroduce passenger services on the branch line in Hampshire between Totton and Hythe have taken another step forward, with Hampshire County Council agreeing to fund a GRIP 3 technical study.

The GRIP 2 study established a business case for re-establishing a passenger service on the line connecting Totton, Hounsdown, Marchwood and Hythe – known as the Waterside area – whose passenger services were closed in 1966.

The line is currently only used for freight, but the alliance of local authorities wants an hourly shuttle between Hythe and Southampton Central, taking 23 minutes each way. Extending the service all the way to the terminus at Fawley, however, would extend the journey time too much to allow an hourly shuttle.

The London & South East RUS (route utilisation study) by Network Rail last year examined the proposal for passenger services on the line, and concluded that although in timetabling terms it would be perfectly possible, the cost of re-opening the closed stations and making them DDA-compliant, alongside the need for South West Trains to procure additional rolling stock meant that idea “will have a low value for money business case”.

It added: “In addition, depending on the level of investment in infrastructure on the branch to facilitate a new passenger service, there could be conflicts between a regular passenger service and freight growth if a large container port were to be developed at Dibden Bay.”

It therefore did not recommend the change, but Hampshire CC and the other authorities involved (a mix of district and parish councils and the national park authority for the New Forest) say the business case has now been established following the GRIP 2 study.

Cllr Mel Kendal, Hampshire’s environment and transport leader, said: “There is no doubt that there is potential for the development of the rail network in South Hampshire and we have had some very constructive discussions with Network Rail and South West Trains on this matter.

“The outcome of the GRIP 2 study has enabled us to develop a business case for the development of the Waterside line but there is still a great deal of technical work to be done and detail to be worked through so we are still some years away from opening the line to passengers. Nonetheless what we have established so far is encouraging and I can see that a Waterside rail line could help enormously in reducing congestion on the A326. Tackling congestion to keep all areas of Hampshire moving is a key priority for us, and we will continue to investigate any options which will improve travel and offer more choice for local residents and businesses. A rail line in this area would complement the existing public transport services available in the area and offer local residents greater choice and flexibility for travel.

” South West Trains’ stakeholder & accessibility manager, Phil Dominey, gave a cautious welcome to the news, but made clear that the operator has some concerns over the integration of this proposed service into the current network.

He told RTM: “South West Trains welcomes any scheme that encourages increased rail usage for passengers. We are keen to ensure any such proposal is fully integrated into the existing timetable and does not compromise train performance or the service we currently offer on the Southampton to Bournemouth line. To eliminate any potential impact on the existing services between Bournemouth and Southampton, South West Trains has remained in close contact with Hampshire County Council over this proposal and regularly comments on the various stages of the study.

“South West Trains will continue to work closely with the council, consultants and Network Rail as this study is developed into a proposal.”

The GRIP 3 study will begin in the spring, and its results will be analysed by Transport for South Hampshire before any decision to move onto GRIP 4 is considered.

(Image : SG1_Trooper)

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