Waterside Passenger Rail Service
I attended the second meeting of the waterside Rail Partnership this week. Last time we met, the group, comprising of Parish, District & County Officers, elected Councillors, representatives from companies such as Network Rail and others concerned with transport, decided to appoint consultants to undertake a feasibility study. The purpose of this meeting was to hear a report back from the consultants.
Since the last meeting I have been appointed a lead member for transport by the New Forest National Park Authority. I am particularly keen to see a train passenger service alongside the Waterside, although I’m equally keen that it should not cause greater delays at the Junction Road train gates in Totton.
The report from the consultants seemed quite encouraging. It seems most likely that the speed limit along the existing train track will have to be increased from 30 miles per hour to 45 miles per hour, which would permit a half hour service from Hythe to Southampton. A passing loop and new station would have to be constructed at Hounsdown. The abandoned train station at Marchwood could be brought back into use, (at relatively low cost). There will also need to be a new platform constructed at Hythe.
It looks rather like extending a passenger line down into Fawley isn’t really feasible, largely because of very slow speed limits (for safet reasons), through the refinery.
The consultants esimate that about 1,000 people a day would likely use the trains, resulting in a net increase in overall rail revenue of £1.1 million. The capital costs of the project are estimated at £7.41 million, with an annual revenue cost to operate and maintain the service of £700,000.
There has been no detailed study into all the economic benefits of a new railway passenger service. However, it is considered that reducing traffic congestion on major roads such as the A326 would likely benefit the economy to the tune of £730,000 annually.
Potential passengers are currently using cars or buses or the Hythe ferry. Some concerns were expressed that a significant shift from ferry to a new rail service might mean that the ferry service would no lomger be viable. I, of course, raised the issue of the likely impact to the Junction Road train gates, supported by an officer who reminded one and all that the centre of Totton is already designated as an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) and local authorities have a statutory duty not to worsen the position.
The meeting resolved that copies of the report be distributed to organisations who have contributed towards funding the feasibility study and to other organisations involved that have a grasp of the technical issues. Once we have feedback from them we will meet again to decide whether to instruct the consultants to undertake further work.
Quote from me “I’m greatly encouraged by the results of the work undertaken so far. However, any increase in delays at the Junction Road train gates in Totton could be a deal-breaker. If it is decided to instruct the consultants to undertake more work, I’m assured this aspect will be addressed very carefully”.