RINGWOOD could have its own railway station, with an old rail link to Brockenhurst reopened, under a £70million plan backed by South West Trains.

A report by the Association of Train Operating Companies has earmarked the Ringwood to Brockenhurst line and the Waterside line between Hythe and Totton for revamping because both Ringwood and Hythe are key population centres with no rail services.

The scheme has also been put forward because rail passenger numbers are expected to soar over the next few years.

The line between Hythe and Totton would cost about £3million because the line is still operational and used by freight trains.

Report author Chris Austin said the idea could become reality within five to 10 years.

He added: "I think it is quite likely that this will happen - because they both showed up quite well on our financial analysis.

"The benefits of each outweighed the costs - that is why we think more work should be done."

The report suggests that the Hythe line, which last took passengers in 1966, may be linked with the Chandlers Ford service to provide direct links from the Waterside to Southampton, Southampton Airport and Romsey.

That would mean an hourly diesel service, with the potential to develop an electrified line.

Meanwhile, electric trains would run on a single track from Ringwood for the first time in more than 40 years.

But it would mean putting £70million into the scheme to pay for relaying tracks and creating four level crossings over the 18-mile route.

Funding would come from a mixture of cash from private organisations, central government and local authorities.

Difficulties rolling out the Ringwood proposal

Mel Kendal, Hampshire County Council's environment boss welcomed moves to open up Hythe to passengers - but warned there would be difficulties rolling out the Ringwood proposal.

He said: "Certainly the Hythe line would be attractive at that price, but whether the Ringwood one is viable at that cost, I don't know.

"We have pushed for the Hythe link for some time so that would be very exciting for us.

"There are quite a few problems with the line itself from Ringwood as it cuts through the National Park and that would be subject to National Park considerations."

Denis Fryer from the South Hampshire Rail Users' Group added: "I know Hythe to Totton has long been a candidate for reopening.

"It is obviously worthwhile. Hythe and Ringwood are both populous areas and rail is recognised as being green and would alleviate traffic - but quite where the money comes from is another matter altogether."

ATOC argues that there is a strong case for refurbishing and reopening old routes across the country due to soaring passenger numbers over the last decade.

Ringwood Mayor Cllr Christine Ford was positive about the idea. She said: “It would be absolutely wonderful if it could happen but there are some practicalities to consider.

“In theory it’s absolutely magnificent as it would help with the traffic we have got and to not have to go to Bournemouth to catch a train would be wonderful.”

She suggested a monorail or a light railway might be easier options as they would not take up so much space and might not be so expensive.

“We all rejoice that we have National Express stopping in the town, but a train would be so wonderful,” she added.