Hogrider 165 (August 2022)

South Hampshire Rail Users’ Group Newsletter









Network Rail has launched its own public consultation on proposals for re-introducing passenger train services on the Waterside line, possibly from mid-decade. These are based on a frequency of up to half-hourly (less off-peak) between Southampton Central (using the west-facing bay platform - the steam era’s platform 5) and a new Hythe station, either on Jones Lane or New Road, with intermediate stops at Totton and Marchwood. Hounsdown and a Parkway station at Hardley no longer feature. Trains would comprise existing two-coach class 158 diesel units as used on the Romsey-Salisbury services.

The consultation includes drop-in sessions at various locations and runs from August 10th to September 9th. It is unfortunate that some of the earlier sessions were during the heat wave, which may have reduced attendance. The remaining sessions are on:

Monday 5 September 18.00-22.00 at Marchwood Junior School; Tuesday 6 September 16.00-20.00 at Hythe and Dibden Parish Hall; Thursday 8 September at 14.00-1800 at Totton and Eling Community Centre – Plant Room; Friday 9 September 10.00-14.00 at The Jubilee Hall, Fawley.

The position looks quite positive, especially as uncertainties about taking ahead the comparable Bristol-Portishead reopening proposals seem to have been resolved.

The on-line consultation (www.networkrail.co.uk/watersideline) is very brief compared with the Hampshire County Council’s consultation (our response to the latter is in Issue 164 of this newsletter).

Our comments to Network Rail:

Marginal preference for the New Road site for Hythe station. Both locations are convenient for the shopping centre and marina village, but New Road is slightly nearer the hospital and (for ramblers) the New Forest Country Park. If trains could have increased space for cycles, boosting revenue, Hythe might gain an enhanced role as a gateway to the Forest.

In scale and population catchment area, the proposal is very similar to some other restoring railway schemes such as on the Portishead branch mentioned above. Continuing population growth in Totton and the Waterside is causing road congestion. The road bridge between Totton and Southampton and motorway link at Redbridge are adjacent pinchpoints. Buses therefore need slower timetables at peak times and still run late. With the two container terminals and Southampton refuse facility served by the same route from Southampton there is a very polluted corridor which adversely affects the quality of life of nearby residents. The rail proposal could therefore have beneficial knock-on effects for people on the western side of Southampton, as well as those in Totton and the Waterside.

SOUTH HAMPSHIRE TIMETABLE DEVELOPMENTS AND SETBACKS [For general guidance only – please always check on-line before travel]

South Western Railway

Plans for the December 2022 timetable (on which we reported and commented at length in Issue 164) have now been deferred. The official statement says:

‘Over the past twelve weeks, SWR has seen its overall customer journeys stabilise at 70% of pre-Covid levels. While off peak travel has returned strongly to 100% of pre-Covid trips, commuters have been slower to return, making just 53% of the peak journeys they did before the pandemic.

In light of these figures and the ongoing cost challenge facing the rail industry, SWR, Network Rail and the Department for Transport have decided to defer the timetable changes set out in the December 2022 consultation.

Instead, SWR will continue with its current service levels in December, with a limited number of targeted interventions to optimise services where demand has returned quickest. SWR and Network Rail will continue to monitor customer behaviour and act with agility to meet increased demand, subject to funding being agreed with the Department for Transport.’

[Note: SWR’s current on-line timetable leaflets are shown as valid until 8.10.2022. A random check of a few departure times in on-line booking facilities suggests that this is mainly linked with accommodating the slightly longer journey times allowed for some services (particularly in early morning) during the colder months.

Remember that Monday-Friday post-peak evening services from Waterloo are very poor. This, along with the reduced Cross Country services via Reading, provides a double whammy for long-distance passengers between Scotland, the North or Midlands and South Hampshire.]


Southern is making minor changes from 4th September 2022. Hampshire’s services will return to normal levels. On Mondays-Fridays the 06.08 Southampton Central-Victoria will be restored, and the 06.32 from Portsmouth Harbour will divert to Brighton, but connecting into the train from Southampton.

All Southern’s services between Hampshire and London will serve Victoria. The token London Bridge services were mainly of use to commuters between West Sussex stations and the City as travel to London Bridge via Waterloo and Waterloo East is significantly quicker.

Brighton-West Worthing local trains will not run. So, on Mondays to Saturdays, Portsmouth trains will serve Fishersgate, and Southampton trains will serve East Worthing and Aldrington. Sunday trains also serve these stations.

Cross Country

The summer timetable is to continue until 10th December. There are 58 weekly trains from Southampton to Manchester, and another 7 going as far as Birmingham. There are no direct services going north-eastwards after Birmingham [as a sole exception, the evening train to Birmingham continued to Derby on Mondays to Fridays during the Commonwealth Games, presumably for the benefit of home-going spectators]

In terms of trains, this is about 45% of the pre-covid timetable, when weekly departures from Southampton were 101 to Manchester (100 during the summer months), 7 to Birmingham, 5 to Edinburgh, 1 to Leeds (summer months only), 26 to Newcastle and 6 to York.

The change does not only affect long-distance travellers. For example, there is generally a direct train between Southampton and Oxford only every two hours, with a huge time penalty in the alternate hours. Leave Southampton at 09.00, change at Basingstoke and Reading, and reach Oxford at 11.12. Leave Southampton at 10.17 on the direct Cross Country train and get to Oxford at 11.38.

The railway press suggests that Cross Country is restrained in introducing a better service by rewrites of long-distance timetables from Euston and Kings Cross which may impact Cross Country schedules in the West Midlands and North.

In addition, the Cross Country services which do operate are mostly double the previous length. The pint-pot Voyager diesel trains originally introduced by the Virgin/Stagecoach partnership under the previous franchise, were also introduced by them on the wholly electrified Euston-Birmingham-Scotland route. Avanti, which now operates the latter service is to switch these services to electric operation. The displaced Voyager units could potentially help Cross Country to operate an improved service without reducing current train lengths.


The GWR services operating in South Hampshire since May appear to be the new normal, and the timetable will continue until 10th December.


From Monday 28th March 2022, for at least a fortnight, buses replaced trains on the Brockenhurst to Lymington Pier branch line.

The importance of running trains is to convey passengers to the Pier for cross-Solent ferries to / from Yarmouth Isle of Wight.

The importance of serving Lymington Town station is to provide public transport for residents and visitors.  There is a sizable "college" flow of students especially early morning and late afternoon. 

However, the buses DID NOT SERVE LYMINGTON TOWN station but stopped north of the town, some 10 minutes walk (for healthy persons) from the Town station in completely the opposite direction.

A single decker coach was providing the normal service to the Wightlink terminal and a DOUBLE DECK BUS was used for the college times, otherwise it was on standby all day at Brockenhurst. 

The situation was far from satisfactory.  Passengers were arriving at the Town station expecting at least a bus service, only to find that the buses did not serve the station but stopped and picked up/set down on the B3054.  This was also "pot luck" as there was no bus stop at which to wait.  

The arrangement was also extremely unpopular with passengers in foul weather. It would appear that the reason given was "health and safety" due to not a large enough turning point at the station, and buses not allowed to reverse with passengers on board. Reversing happens on many bus routes and also buses reverse from bus bays at bus stations, so one may ask why Lymington Town is a special case?

So, future planning requires a better facility for buses - although "More" and "Blue Star" buses seem to manage at their depot adjacent to the Town station without too much bother.  This matter should be a priority discussion point for the planning authorities.  

On the future of train services, it is very important that the branch line is kept open and buses used only for absolutely necessary emergency or engineering work etc. It also must be made clear to passengers exactly what arrangements have been made for them.  It is disappointing at present that connections with trains at Brockenhurst are not guaranteed and the same at Lymington Pier with the ferries.

Informed sources have revealed that the line is fairly expensive to maintain with restricted height main road bridge on the A337 "Southampton Road", a very low bridge near Lymington Junction and tidal water bridge between the Town and the Pier stations.  Whilst some may argue that the cost of maintaining infrastructure probably outweighs the revenue earned from the train services, one needs to look at the overall advantages of a train service from a wider prospective.  For example, long distance train passengers use the train service and to expect them to transfer to buses en-route or from the Isle of Wight is totally unacceptable. Local passengers who wish to travel beyond Brockenhurst expect a train rather than a bus. 

Overall some action needs to be taken to ensure the retention of the Brockenhurst to Lymington line.  



Transport for the South East of England is the sub-national transport body covering the six Berkshire authorities, Kent, Medway, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Surrey, East Sussex, West Sussex, and Brighton and Hove. The region is said to be the second most productive in the country behind London, with 8.3 million residents and more than 3 million businesses. It is Britain’s key international gateway for people and goods.

The consultation documents can be found on www.transportforthesoutheast.org.uk. The deadline for reply is 12.9.2022. They are very substantial, and no doubt put together before the lethal combination of Brexit, the pandemic and the Russian war against Ukraine collapsed the economy. But at least the long timescale may give cause for hope that significant investments can still be made.

The objectives include: ‘A bold vision for a brighter future: “We think that to achieve a flourishing economy you need to achieve a bold, future-focused transport strategy built around people and the places they work and do business”.

By 2050, the South East of England will be a leading global region for net-zero carbon sustainable economic growth, where integrated transport, digital and energy networks have delivered a step change in connectivity and environmental quality’.

A high-quality, reliable, safe and accessible transport network will offer seamless door-to-door journeys enabling our businesses to compete and trade more effectively in the global marketplace and give our residents and visitors the highest quality of life.

The consultation invites respondents to indicate the geographical sub-areas on which they wish to comment.

Our Group’s general position

It’s good to see long-term strategies and recognition of the importance of our region and its economic hotspots. We have long been taking the broader view, in which the South Hampshire corridor from Southampton to Portsmouth is rated by the Office for National Statistics as the 7th most populous built-up area in the UK.

On rail, the big local operational issue is the constricted route between Southampton Central station and the junction between the main line and Portsmouth line at St Denys. The circuitous Portsmouth route via St Denys to Woolston results in problems programming dozens of freightliner workings daily, as well as slowing and limiting the core local Southampton-Portsmouth service.

The Strategic Investment Plan contains an enhanced investment proposal to maximise the benefits of these operations by diverting Portsmouth trains through a new tunnel between Southampton Central and Woolston.

We had suggested the basic idea to Network Rail in 2019, and further promoted it in a letter published in the Southern Daily Echo on 7.8.2021 which commented: that:

‘both the Portsmouth and Southampton networks are busy, and realising their full potential is likely to incur substantial long-term investment. Enhancements like segregated tracks into central Portsmouth for trains via Fareham and via Havant, and a tunnel from Southampton Central to Woolston to release capacity for main line freight services, come to mind.’

The Echo focused on this idea when reporting the Strategic Investment Plan. The front page of the Saturday July 2nd edition had the headline ‘UNDERGROUND RAILWAY SCHEME’ in 3 centimetre capitals! This generated a raft of comments, some of them very positive. We welcomed the Strategic Plan, as a return to long-term radical planning in a letter published in the Echo on 8th July 2022.

Comments made on behalf of the Group

The Strategic Plan is so comprehensive that comments by people not involved in transport planning were always likely to be selective. Comments on behalf of our Group included the following:

(1) Mass rapid transit traditionally means tramways or other rail-based systems, which are faster and much smoother running than buses, so are perceived as a more attractive alternative to cars. With the exception of London's Docklands light railway and the Croydon area tramway, the new rail-based systems created in recent decades are all situated in the geographical slice of Britain from Birmingham to Edinburgh.

Between London and Birmingham, there is the Cambridge-Huntingdon guided busway - the longest in the world – creating a visual scar across the landscape as the cost of higher speed, and conceived as a cheap option for restoring public transport to a closed railway route.

Outside Greater London, The South and South East generally get unambitious projects like lengths of dedicated bus road or the now discredited bendy buses. These have done little to make public transport more attractive in terms either of reduced travel times or comfort.

Bendy buses were awkward to manoeuvre (particularly in busy town centres). Increased frequencies on dedicated bus roads can have a negative impact on congestion where the bus roads don't extend into the busiest sections of road (eg in central Fareham). So 'rapid transit' becomes a misnomer in relation to road-based systems. More priority needs to be given to rail-based systems to level up the South East.

(2) Southampton's size and concentrated traffic corridors seem geographically well suited to a tramway. Initial routes might run from the IOW ferry terminal via city centre, with a western branch to General Hospital via Central Station and Shirley (largest suburban shopping centre) and eastern branch to university campus via Portswood (second largest suburban shopping centre). A third core route might run northwards via Solent University and South Hants Hospital to Northam, Bitterne and Hedge End. These core routes might also extend to outer residential areas, with park and ride facilities.

The Woolston area could be complementarily served by the 'enhanced scheme' rail tunnel. An intermediate sub-surface station nearer Southampton's city centre could enable travel between the Portsmouth and Southampton shopping centres in about 30 minutes, and improve access to Portsmouth's superior waterfront facilities.

Michael Fallon, as Minister for Portsmouth, identified improved rail connectivity as a prime objective. ONS ranks the Southampton-Portsmouth corridor as the 7th largest built-up area in the UK. Lower rankings, such as Tyneside, Nottingham and Sheffield enjoy far greater rail or tram improvements. Nottingham has achieved much in taming road traffic. It has some 50 tram stops and some 5,000 free parking spaces on 7 sites.

(3) Where the concept of 'mass transit' is downgraded to enhanced bus operations, buses tend to run slightly faster on dedicated lengths of bus road and then snarl up very busy road sections, typically in urban and suburban centres. There may be operational and economic tensions between single decker buses (operating more frequently to meet demand, and thus more likely to cause congestion and unreliability) and double deckers (operating less frequently but causing less congestion).

There seems to be a movement away from the popularity of single decker buses of recent decades, though it is not clear whether this is through road congestion, inability to recruit staff, or both. Bluestar buses in Southampton trialled a larger double decker vehicle from Brighton and then introduced larger buses of its own. City Red buses in Southampton recently introduced its first double deckers, on a busy cross-city route serving the general hospital. Buses can relieve congestion by replacing car journeys but also CREATE congestion on busy routes. This may be an issue which needs modelling.

(4) The problem with 'new mobility' (broadly, zipping around in the open air) is that it doesn't fit easily with increasingly frequent periods of extreme climate. In the month of August 2022 alone, Britain experienced wild fires and serious flooding.

(5) The proposed packages were no doubt thoroughly costed against the reality current at the time. However, the UK is at a tipping point. Rampant inflation and increasing poverty are creating a conflict of financial priorities with the need to tackle devastating climate changes. In some cases they can create a combined pejorative force, for example climate change can lead to reduction in the food yield and higher food prices. This is therefore a difficult time to cost anything with much certainty.

The danger is that the consultation's brave new world will be cut to the bone as a matter of short term political expediency. The relatively long 30-year timeframe, and dangers of not doing enough (particularly in relation to climate change and its heap of risks) will need to be maintained in high profile.

It is instructive to see what is happening to the restoration project for the Oxford-Cambridge- East Anglia rail route. This ticked all the right boxes: faster, higher-capacity transport between successful and growing towns; routeing trains from the massive container operation at Felixstowe away from London, and carbon reduction from electrification.

Electrification was dropped. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suddenly considers that the whole project is a waste of money and, instead of creating a strategic cross-country route, work should be abandoned east of Milton Keynes. Equally startling, the MP for North East Bedfordshire is peddling the view that the project is out of date (contrary to globally accepted wisdom) BECAUSE of population growth, and resources should be diverted to increasing road capacity.

So constant vigilance will be needed if a new vision for transport in the South East is not to be littered with the potholes of political whim.

(6) Experience suggests that transport improvements are more likely to be delivered where there is regional devolution. Yet TfSE (possibly under government guidelines?) seems to shun involvement even in local authorities' consultative roles. Clarity is needed on whether LAs should have regard to TfSE's regional priorities, or TfSE have regard to LAs' local priorities.

The danger is that the latter scenario would probably lead to the kind of micro-planning which has left Hampshire with short sections of dedicated bus lanes without improvement of overall journey times.

Great British Railways is supposed to provide a guiding mind. The Strategic Rail Authority failed miserably in that role. It appears that the TfSE wants to be a guiding mind on transport more widely, with laudable schemes like improved long-distance train services and relief of road congestion. But it needs to have teeth and use them.

Who is highlighting the current cuts in Cross Country services which impose a severe time penalty in alternate hours even for people wanting to travel just from Southampton to Oxford? Longer distance travellers who shun Cross Country for travel via London find that SWR's later evening services from Waterloo are heftily cut on Mondays to Fridays.

(7) The Integrated Sustainability Appraisal is remarkably detailed. There are so many competing pressures and aspirations identified – social, mobility, economic and environmental – that the potential scale and combinations of outcomes are huge, though this would be the case anyway, because of the trump card of political whim.

The South East of England has developed in a piecemeal fashion, with some areas arguably overdeveloped and others feeling left behind. Turning to the Southampton-Portsmouth built-up area, had the Solent City plans of the 1960s not been abandoned for largely political reasons, its transport problems would probably not be giving rise to so many issues today.

Instead of substantial enhancement of the rail network, we got third rail electrification infill and three new or reopened stations in the borough of Eastleigh, alongside closure of 6 platforms in total at Portsmouth & Southsea, Portsmouth Harbour, Eastleigh, and Southampton Central stations, and abandonment of the double track line between Fareham and Fontley to save the cost of a motorway overbridge.

The Strategic Investment Plan is commendably optimistic at a time of considerable pessimism. It is excellent that there is a long-term plan, but it will need to be maintained in difficult times with clarity of vision and determination to engage with obstacles along the path.


In Issue 164, we reported that, subject to approval, former South West Trains operator Stagecoach was to be taken over by National Express towards the end of 2022. However, German infrastructure investor DWS – ultimately owned by Deutsche Bank – has now taken over.

Following the demise of the Darlington Bus Company in 1994, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission described Stagecoach’s behaviour as “deplorable, predatory and against the public interest”. The High Court refused to issue an injunction against broadcasting of The World in Action’s programme ‘Cowboy Country’ about Stagecoach’s business practices on 1st July 1996. Stagecoach’s legacy in Southampton is no bus station and no information office at Southampton Central station.

The new operators’ vision commendably includes ‘safer’, perhaps as a nod to the shocking range of bus accidents which occurred under their predecessors’ tenure.


As always, thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to contact us. Without your support and input, this newsletter would be much less comprehensive. It is produced in good faith, based on reports and information from individuals and sources including the press and news websites. Contributions are always welcome. We aim for accuracy at all times, because our good reputation depends on it. We do not use material which could be offensive or which appears unlikely to be correct.

We do not process information of a personal nature and, in view of GDPR, we will maintain our approach that the names of those who contribute news items or articles will be acknowledged in newsletters only where they have indicated that they consent to this. So, when submitting articles or items for collation, please indicate if you would like them to be attributed to you.

Railways are a public service and our Group is open to any interested parties. This newsletter will be available on-line. Newsletters are e’mailed to recipients involved in the Group, and individuals or organisations who have asked to be included in the circulation list or otherwise have close links (for example, through HCC’s New Forest Transport Forums). If you receive the newsletter and do not wish to receive further issues, please let us know.

Address for correspondence: Denis Fryer, 19 Fontwell Close, Calmore, Southampton SO40 2TN. E’mail: denisfryer44@gmail.com