VILLAGE leaders have thrown their support behind a campaign to reopen a Hampshire rail route.

Members of Marchwood Parish Council are backing calls to reintroduce passenger services on the old Totton to Fawley branch line, which runs through the village.

County councillor David Harrison, who represents Totton and Marchwood, has spent years calling for the line to be reopened.

He and fellow enthusiasts want passenger services on the route to be restored to ease the ever-increasing burden on the A326 and other roads in the area.

The campaign has gained new momentum since Fawley Waterside unveiled plans to build up to 1,500 homes on land currently occupied by the former Fawley power station.

Residents attending a meeting of Marchwood Parish Council said the A326 was already at or near capacity, resulting in severe congestion at peak periods.

They described bus services as poor - and said the reinstatement of the railway would make the Waterside a more attractive place to live and work.

Speaking after the meeting the chairman, Richard Young, said: "Marchwood Parish Council supports, in principle, the delivery of an integrated transport infrastructure solution for the Waterside area, including the restoration of a passenger railway serving the parishes of Totton, Marchwood, Hythe and Fawley.

"This adopted position will now be formally communicated to both New Forest District Council and Hampshire County Council."

Cllr Harrison said: "I'm absolutely thrilled that Marchwood Parish Council has resolved to support the restoration of the passenger service along the Waterside railway line.

"I think the parish councillors understood the value of being able to step on a train at Marchwood and find themselves in Southampton train station only nine minutes later.

"There are always some challenges with such a project, including the need to upgrade the railway platforms, trying to make sure people don't drive to the village station and park nearby, as well as some brief closures of the train gates, but none of these things are deal-breakers."

The line closed to passengers in the late 1960s but continued to serve Marchwood Military Port and Fawley refinery.

Although the track is now used only occasionally almost all the infrastructure is still intact, including the signals and the former stations at Hythe and Marchwood.

The old Hythe station is now the headquarters of the Waterside Heritage local history group.

Marchwood station is used as a base by Network Rail employees who operate the adjoining level crossing when a train is going to or from the military port.