RAILWAY enthusiasts are hoping to reopen a long-closed Hampshire railway line.

The Didcot to Southampton Railway, axed in the Beeching cuts of the 1960s, ran through Newbury to Winchester which is connected with the mainline at Shawford.

Rex Hora, chairman of Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway Revival, said the predicted increase in freight traffic meant that the idea was feasible.

Mr Hora admitted that much of the track has been built on but that in the long-term it will be needed to cope with the growth in freight traffic between Southampton Docks and the Midlands.

He said that although the Southampton-Winchester-Basingstoke-Reading line has been upgraded for larger containers, it still has only two tracks so its capacity is limited.

Once the former line is re-opened for freight there will be the opportunity for direct passenger services between Oxford, Newbury and Winchester, without the need to go via Reading.

Mr Hora said the priority was the northern section between Didcot and Whitchurch.

He said: “In an ideal world we would like to open the whole line. South of Whitchurch we might have to go for a detour via Salisbury.

“The main argument is freight traffic from Southampton to the Midlands. At the moment it goes through Winchester but the line is nearing capacity. They are either going to have to consider upgrading to four tracks or having a separate route, perhaps via Salisbury, at some stage in the next couple of decades.”

Chris Webb is a member of the Friends of Hockley Viaduct which campaigned for the viaduct south of Winchester to be restored and reopened for public use.

Mr Webb said: “It’s far too late. Much of the track bed has been obliterated, by the Newbury bypass, the A34 at Litchfield near Whitchurch and at Kings Worthy. At Bar End there is the Chesil multi-storey car park and the Stagecoach depot.

“To recreate it now would be very difficult and very expensive. I think it is a dodo.”