Fawley Branch Line
|Fawley Branch Line|
The Fawley Branch Line, also known as the Waterside Line is a standard gauge railway line to Fawley, in the English county of Hampshire. It is on the opposite side of Southampton Water from the city of Southampton itself, in an area known as Waterside. For forty years a passenger service operated, but this was withdrawn and now, with the exception of the occasional enthusiasts' railtour, the line serves the freight needs of Fawley Refinery and Marchwood Military Port.
Authorised in 1903, after some years of trying, the line was built under the Light Railways Act 1896 by the Fawley, Hythe and Marchwood Light Railway and opened on 20 July 1925. At first, traffic was light but in the 1920s the largest oil refinery in Britain opened at Fawley and subsequently expanded. The line opened under the Southern Railway and then to British Railways (Southern Region) at nationalisation in 1948.
Leaving the South Western Main Line at Totton, west of Southampton, the line can be seen from Bournemouth-bound trains running alongside the main line for a mile and then curving away to the south. The passenger service served Marchwood, Hythe, and Fawley. Operated by steam trains, then the 'Hampshire' diesel-electric multiple units, the service was withdrawn on 14 February 1966 as a result of the Beeching Axe.
On June 16, 2009, Association of Train Operating Companies announced it was looking into the reopening of the railway as far as Hythe, with a possibility of a further extension to Fawley if agreement could be reached with Esso, which owns the land where Fawley railway station once stood.
The proposals included;
- Reopening of all former stations along the line.
- A new station in Totton called Totton West, sited just west of the junction with the main line.
- A new train service from Fawley or Hythe to Totton and on via Southampton Central, Southampton Airport Parkway, Eastleigh, Chandlers Ford and Romsey before returning to Southampton Central, Totton and Fawley or Hythe, also serving othere intermediate stations.
It was envisaged that the railway link could be built over a 5 to 10 year period at a cost of around £3 Million. The service would be operated by current franchisee South West Trains using diesel multiple units. If the scheme delivered a sufficient financial return, there would be a future possibility of electrification. The service was planned to run half-hourly during peak times and hourly at other times.
On November 8, 2013 Councillor David Harrison of Totton and Marchwood obtained a copy of the final GRIP 3 Study report and shared it via his website. In the report it was stated that the service would be half-hourly, using Diesel Multiple Units calling at all stations between Hythe and Southampton, including a new station to be called Hounsdown (once planned to be called Totton West). A new passing loop would have to be installed at Hounsdown to allow passing of freight and passenger trains. Other upgrades would include AWS/TPWS and signalling. Owing to security reasons at the oil refinery, Fawley Station would not be reopened as part of the scheme. It has been pointed out that there are some possible drawbacks to this scheme. For example, if the Waterside Line (as it has been termed) gets the green light, the subsidy from Hampshire County Council for the Southampton & Hythe Ferry service would be likely to cease, also the local bus companies who operate in the area might be at risk of losing some of their subsidy.
On January 21 2014, Hampshire County Council decided to shelve the plans to reopen the line. The council's report came down against committing further funding for the scheme due to a perceived poor value for money business case, although it said the authority should review the position should local circumstances change.
- Marchwood Station (at Subterranea Britannica)
- Hythe Station (at Subterranea Britannica)
- Fawley Station (at Subterranea Britannica)
- "Rail links to the past". BBC News. 15 June 2009.
- R.V.J.Butt, (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations. Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-85260-508-1
- J.R.Fairman, (2002). The Fawley Branch. Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-85361-584-5