THE re-opening of a long-lost Hampshire railway has come a small step closer, following a public meeting.

Fifteen people attended the meeting in Newbury, organised by Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway Revival (DNSRR).

The restored railway would improve transport links in the Didcot-Winchester corridor and provide additional capacity for freight traffic between Southampton and the Midlands.

At Oxford, it would also link to East West Rail, currently under construction, giving simple access to Aylesbury, Milton Keynes, and Bedford, and, eventually, to Cambridge.

The group is building a business case for the government, local authorities, Network Rail and train companies.

The line would follow the original route on the Didcot-Newbury-Whitchurch section, and the mood at the meeting was generally supportive.

However, concerns were expressed about difficulties in restoring the parts which have been replaced by the A34 at Kings Worthy and built over at Didcot and Newbury.

DNSRR spokesman Rex Hora said: “I do not regard these problems as insuperable and believe, for example, that the railway could be built alongside the A34 road. It would occupy no more land than would be required for adding two extra lanes to the road, and would be less environmentally damaging.”

South of Whitchurch, the line would connect to Southampton by two routes. One would use existing lines via Salisbury and Romsey, the other would link to the Basingstoke-Winchester line.

Two options for connection to the Winchester line are under consideration. One would use the original DNSR route and connect to the Winchester line near Kings Worthy. The other would involve the construction of a short link near Whitchurch to north of Micheldever. This latter link was authorised in 1880, but not built.

Having two rail routes to Southampton would create extra flexibility and relieve pressure on the Winchester line.

There are no plans to restore the DNSR Winchester Chesil station because it is felt that this would cause too much disruption in the centre of Winchester, not least because a multi-storey car park has been built over the line.

The Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway was opened in 1882, closed to passengers in 1962 and to goods in 1964.

The line’s Hockley Viaduct has recently been restored.