Bound for Fawley: from left, SWR Managing Director Mark Hopwood, Network Rail Chair Sir Peter Hendy and Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris prepare to board the special service at Southampton Central on 28 July.
South Western Railway ran a special service on the Fawley branch line in Hampshire on 28 July, more than 50 years since regular passenger services on the line ceased.
The eight-mile branch, also known as the Waterside line, leaves the South Western main line at Totton, west of Southampton, and is proposed for reopening with new stations at Marchwood, Hythe and Fawley. The reopening proposal secured funding from the Ideas fund in the first round of the Department for Transport’s ‘Restoring your Railway’ competition, which provides support towards a feasibility study into the reopening.
On board the fact-finding train, comprised of an SWR Class 159, were Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris, Network Rail Chair Sir Peter Hendy and local representatives including Nick Farthing, Chair of Three Rivers Community Rail Partnership. The Restoring your Railway submission was made by Hampshire County Council.
The branch first opened in 1925 but saw its last regular passenger service in 1966. Regular freight services ceased in August 2016 followed the ending of crude oil deliveries from the Holybourne onshore oil field near Alton to Fawley, although occasional military freight trains still use the line as far as Marchwood. The Three Rivers Community Rail Partnership ran a series of special passenger trains from Southampton Central in May 2017 using Hastings DMUs.