JOURNEY times to London could be cut under ambitious plans to electrify the train line, the Andover Advertiser can reveal.

Network Rail has confirmed to this paper that it is looking into electrifying the train line between Exeter and London and will publish a draft report in the spring.

If the assessment is a success Network Rail could convert the line from its current diesel usage into a more modern electric track, meaning faster journeys to and from the capital for Andover passengers.

Residents who live near the line will also benefit from the conversion with electric trains said to be both quieter and more environmentally friendly.

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “Network Rail, on behalf of the wider rail industry, is currently undertaking an assessment of the national electrification strategy, which we intend to publish in draft form in the spring.

“As part of this an assessment of the business case for electrifying further lines on the Western route will be undertaken. This includes the line from Exeter to London.”

Asked how this will impact on train users he said: “Electric trains are faster, longer, quieter and greener, therefore there are significant benefits for both passengers and those who live near to the railway line.”

The news has been welcomed by the chairman of Andover’s Chamber of Commerce, Hendry Taylor, who said: “The Hampshire Chamber of Commerce welcomes any improvements to the rail network as it has a positive impact on local business.

“Having spoken to various local business people about the electrification of the line most are in favour, especially if it means quicker journeys, possibly cheaper fares and increased capacity.

“Some local businesses travel to London on a regular basis and even going for a single meeting can take up most of your day, which means a loss in productivity.”

Local property experts have also backed the plans.

Lettings manager at Austin Hawk estate agents, Tracy Ryder, said: “I think it will have a positive effect on people buying in the area.

“We are in a triangle between Winchester, Newbury and Salisbury, which all have higher house prices because Andover is seen as being a sleepy market town. However, Andover is on the mainline to London Waterloo, which is important.

“If there are shorter journeys I can possibly see it having an effect on property prices but we will still be behind our neighbours.”