Fawley branch line

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Fawley Branch Line
South Western Main Line
to Bournemouth │ to Southampton
Marchwood Military Port
Hardley Halt
Fawley Refinery

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 For 40 years a passenger service operated, but this was withdrawn with the exception of the occasional enthusiasts' railtour. The line serves the freight needs of Marchwood Military Port, having also served the same function for Fawley Refinery until 2016.


Authorised in 1903, after some years of trying, the line was built under the Light Railways Act 1896 as the Totton, Hythe and Fawley 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.

Passenger service[edit]

Station Date closed
Marchwood 14 February 1966
Hythe 14 February 1966
Hardley Halt 5 April 1965
Fawley 14 February 1966

The route[edit]

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,[1] Hythe,[2] and Fawley.[3] Between Hythe and Fawley there was a Hardley Halt which opened for workmen in 1958 and closed in 1965.[4] Operated by steam trains, then the 'Hampshire' diesel-electric multiple units, the service was withdrawn on 14 February 1966.


On 16 June 2009 the 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;

  1. Reopening of all former stations along the line.
  2. A new station in Totton called Totton West, sited just west of the junction with the main line.
  3. 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 other intermediate stations.

It was envisaged that the railway link could be built over a five to 10 year period at a cost of around £3 million. The service would be operated by the then franchisee South West Trains using diesel multiple units (DMUs). 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.[5][6][7][8]

On 8 November 2013 Councillor David Harrison of Totton South and Marchwood obtained a copy of the final GRIP 3 Study report and shared it via his website.[9] In the report it was stated that the service would be half-hourly, using DMUs 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. For reasons of security 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 gets the green light, the subsidy from Hampshire County Council for the Southampton & Hythe ferry service would be likely to cease, and the local bus companies which operate in the area might be at risk of losing some of their subsidy.[10] On 21 January 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.[11]

The last train serving the refinery ran on 1 September 2016,[12] after which trains would normally run only as far as Marchwood, although the occasional private hire train would travel the branch line as far as the gates at Fawley oil refinery.[13][14]

Hampshire County Council announced in November 2017 that it will be taking a fresh look at running passenger service due to planned housing development alongside the Waterside and on the former Fawley power plant site.[15]

In August 2018, it was revealed that plans to reopen the line had been resurrected as part of the redevelopment known as Fawley Waters. It proposed a half-hourly service on a Monday to Saturday from Southampton Central to Fawley. At Marchwood the journey time would take 12 minutes and the line would be 60mph. The new Fawley station would be called ‘Hythe & Fawley Parkway’. [16] In November 2018 Hampshire County Council announced the removal of the Hythe Ferry subsidy, despite there being no progress on the proposed rail scheme.[17]

The line has been identified as a priority for reopening to passenger use by Campaign for Better Transport. [18]


  1. ^ Marchwood Station (at Subterranea Britannica)
  2. ^ Hythe Station (at Subterranea Britannica)
  3. ^ Fawley Station (at Subterranea Britannica)
  4. ^ Private and Untimetabled Railway Stations by G.Croughton and others
  5. ^ "Waterside Passenger Rail Service". David Harrison; County, District & Town Councillor Contributors: David Harrison. 10 April 2011. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  6. ^ "Plans to explore Ringwood rail link". Southern Daily Echo Contributors:Chris Yandell, New Forest Chief Reporter. 16 June 2009. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  7. ^ "Campaign to extend rail along Waterside". Southern Daily Echo Contributors:Journal Reporter. 16 June 2009. Retrieved 18 February 2010.
  8. ^ "Rail links to the past". BBC News. 15 June 2009.
  9. ^ "Out in the Open!". David Harrison; County, District & Town Councillor Contributors: David Harrison. 8 November 2013.
  10. ^ "Waterside Rail Study Final Report, Hampshire County Council" (PDF). Halcrow Group. 15 June 2013.
  11. ^ "Waterside Totton and Hythe rail plan shelved"BBC News 21 January 2014
  12. ^ "Hampshire railway history hits buffers after branch line between Totton and Fawley closes". Southern Daily Echo. 1 September 2016. Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  13. ^ "More Autumn Freight-Line Tours". Rail.co.uk. 7 April 2012. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  14. ^ "Events Listings: The Fawley Forester". New Forest National Park. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  15. ^ "Full steam ahead: Campaign to reopen historic railway back on track". Southern Daily Echo Contributors:Christopher Yandell. 12 November 2017. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  16. ^ RAIL Issue 859 p.24
  17. ^ "Council cuts funding for embattled ferry". BBC News. 29 November 2018. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  18. ^ "Reopen these rail lines and put 500,000 people in reach of the railways". Campaign for Better Transport.

Further reading[edit]

  • 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
  • Jenkins, Stanley C. (1986). "The Fawley Branch". Back Track. No. (Special Introductory Issue). Atlantic Transport Publishers. pp. XXVIII–XXXIII. ISSN 0955-5382. OCLC 226007088.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°52′18″N 1°24′44″W / 50.8718°N 1.4121°W / 50.8718; -1.4121