Bid to revamp Hayling Billy 50 years after closure

NOSTALGIC The Hayling Billy crosses Langstone bridge
NOSTALGIC The Hayling Billy crosses Langstone bridge
Cllr Rob Humby (left) with Matthew Riches (right) Skanksa's business director for Hampshire Highways

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HALF a century ago on a crisp November Sunday, two antiquated black locomotives travelled over the creaking timber bridge at Langstone Harbour.

On reaching their destination, they brought to an end almost a century of train journeys from Havant to Hayling Island.

The locomotives may have gone, but the affection for the Hayling Billy has never diminished.

Now local people are vying for £95,000 of Heritage Lottery Funding to give the route a new lease of life.

The route is now a coastal path and campaigners want to make it more accessible and include railway artefacts and information boards to tell its intriguing story.

Plans are afoot to upgrade the stretch between the Texaco and Esso garages and promote wildlife areas along the walk.

The project is the brainchild of rail enthusiast Peter Drury, 66, of The Dale, Widley.

He said: ‘I love the area to be perfectly honest.

‘It all started with looking at this signal which was in a forlorn state and seeing that people had tried to repaint it.

‘I thought “that’s an icon for the whole island and it would be nice to see it fully restored”.’

He has been working with Havant Borough Council to submit an application for funding.

It is hoped to deliver the revamp next year on the 50th anniversary of the closure of the line.

Mr Drury said the legacy of the Hayling Billy was still evident today.

‘It transformed the island,’ he said.

‘Up until then it had been a rural area with a small population.

‘The population exploded. It brought in things like the gas works and the water works to the island because of the increased population.’

At the end of the 1990s, there was a failed bid to build a new bridge on the alignment of the demolished rail bridge and create a Millennium trail.

Mr Drury added: ‘What we have got is the crown jewel of Langstone Harbour – if people could only see it. People know Farlington Marshes very well, but the west of Hayling nature reserve is absolutely superb.’