Southampton Airport Parkway
According to the Civil Aviation Authority’s data for 2019, Southampton ranked nineteenth in terms of passenger numbers amongst UK airports, 1,781,000 travellers passing through the terminal that year. The airport’s main routes today are UK provincial cities and the Channel Islands, but direct passage to Dublin and Amsterdam is also offered. The adjacent Southampton Airport Parkway station has an excellent railway service, with thirty-six departures to Waterloo on a typical weekday.
The first station upon the site occupied by today’s Southampton Airport Parkway was that of “Atlantic Park Hostel Halt”. The Atlantic Park Hostel was a temporary stop-off for migrants from Eastern Europe, who were in transit to the United States of America via Southampton Docks. The hostel occupied extensive lands which now partly make up today’s airport, and in 1929 the advent of a passenger platform there, dedicated to migrant traffic, was reported:
For Atlantic Park Hostel.
EASTLEIGH TO MISS FAMILIAR SIGHT.
Last year over 19,000 transmigrants passed through Atlantic Park Hostel, and the majority, if not all, travelled from Eastleigh railway station to the hostel by motor coach. This mode will no longer exist in the near future, for a platform is to be constructed on the down line at the hostel to allow the emigrants to be taken direct to their temporary home, and similarly dispatched to Southampton Docks. The new platform will be some 100 yards long, and will be provided with adequate shelters. The new arrangement will simply mean that certain trains will make an extra stop, or, if the number is too large, a special train will be employed.
The crowds of mid-Europeans clustered outside Eastleigh station, with piles of luggage, have become a familiar scene to Eastleigh folk. This will no longer be seen when the new platform is constructed.
The new scheme will make the handling of the transmigrants more facile and save the bother of broken journeys.
These emigrants are merely birds of passage, and the average stay is but a few days. Atlantic Park is a “clearing house”, and only thirty odd of the 900 emigrants who sailed from Russia in 1923 for the Western land of promise, and found themselves stranded in England owing to the alteration of the quota laws, now remain.
The new platform is an excellent idea. [The Hampshire Advertiser and Southampton Times, 13th April 1929]
Ordnance Survey maps of the period show just a single platform at the site, serving the “down” side of the double-track main line which passed adjacent to the hostel’s northern perimeter, in harmony with the above article.
In spring 1932, it was announced that the grounds of the Atlantic Park Hostel had been purchased by the Borough Council for the purposes of an airport:
Our neighbours at Southampton are aiming at possessing one of the finest and largest municipal aerodromes in the country.
A proposal is to come before the Borough Council this week for the purchase of the land and buildings of Atlantic Park Hostel at Swaythling for £17,000 [£1,255,000 at 2021 prices]. The land is 23 acres and the buildings include three large hangars left from the War-time, when it was an Air Force depot.
Adjoining this site the Southampton Corporation have already bought 173 acres of land for a municipal aerodrome, the cost being £33,000 [£2,437,000 at 2021 prices]. Another seven acres which belonged to the Cemeteries Committee have also been banded over for the aerodrome.
If the Council buy the other 25 acres the total land available will amount to 205 acres, which is justly expected to provide room for a very fine airport. As some of the buildings are useable now, it will not take long to get the aerodrome into operation. [The Evening News (Portsmouth), Monday, 18th April 1932]
Multiple sources suggest that Southampton Airport opened in November 1932; however, some newspapers were still reporting in the following January that the conversion of the land into an airport was in progress.
What of Atlantic Park Hostel Halt? Your author cannot track down a year of closure, but it must surely have ceased operation when the Borough Council purchased the hostel site in 1932 for the airport. Indeed, a newspaper report from 1935 suggests that the halt still existed — but was not in use — as part of a proposal to convert it into a proper station for the airport:
A Railway Halt
Southampton Aerodrome is at Atlantic Park, situated between Swaythling and Eastleigh, on the main line from Southampton to London. Many people have advocated for a long while the necessity of a railway halt in easy proximity to the Portsmouth Aerodrome.
The Assistant manager of the Southampton Airport told an Evening News representative that so far as he was aware all the talk of the removal [of Jersey Airways Ltd.‘s headquarters] from Portsmouth [aerodrome] to Southampton was only a rumour. He agreed that the railway halt on the aerodrome site could be converted for use at a short notice. [The Evening News (Portsmouth), Tuesday, 19th February 1935]
Your author cannot find a reference to suggest that the halt was ever rebuilt and brought into use for the airport.
Post World War II, the airport’s main commercial traffic was that to and from the Channel Islands, operated by “Silver City Airways”. In October 1959, the company announced that they would transfer their operations from Southampton to Bournemouth (Hurn) Airport from 18th November of that year (ref: Coventry Evening Telegraph, 29th October 1959). The reason given by the airline was that Southampton’s runway was not suitable for all-year-round operation, which plunged the airport’s future into doubt, closure being forecasted for the end of 1960. However, by 1965, fortunes started to be revived, with newspaper reports stating that a hard runway was being laid at Southampton. As a result, British United Airways, British European Airways, and Cambrian Airways made known that they were considering moving their operations from Bournemouth to Southampton.
So much was the expansion of Southampton Airport that, on Thursday, 4th November 1965, British Rail’s (BR) Southern Region announced that work was due to start on the construction of a station to serve the site (ref: The Birmingham Post, Friday, 5th November 1965). The name proposed for the station at that time was “Southampton Airport”, and BR indicated that the platforms were due to open in April 1966, coinciding with the start of increased flights for the summer by British United Airways.
Southampton Airport station opened on 1st April 1966. Two platforms, 800-feet in length and of prefabricated concrete construction, served the double-track main line. The platforms were linked by a footbridge of the same material, concrete bracket lampposts were in evidence, and a single CLASP waiting shelter was provided on the “up” side. From the outset, the station was unstaffed.
From 29th September 1986, the station was known as “Southampton Parkway” (ref: Electric Railway Society Journal, Volume 33, 1986). In the same year, a single-storey glazed rectangular-shaped station building was erected on the “up” side, which replaced the existing CLASP waiting shelter dating from the station’s formative years. A small rectangular waiting shelter was also installed on the “up” platform at that time, the latter of which was situated in-between the main building and concrete footbridge. The concrete bracket lampposts were replaced by metal equivalents, both platforms were lined at their rears with timber fencing, and the station adopted a red colour scheme. It seems likely that the station became staffed at this time.
In the 28th April 1994 edition of the Sandwell Evening Mail (West Midlands) newspaper, it was reported that Southampton Parkway was to be renamed “Southampton Airport (Parkway)”. The reason given for the name change was to prevent passengers getting off at the station and thinking they were in the city centre, when in fact they still had over four route miles to go. The station’s name change was effective from 29th May of that year. In the meantime the redevelopment of the airport, which included building a modern passenger terminal, had been set in motion in October 1993 by the signing of the first contract for the construction of a cargo centre at the site. The passenger terminal was completed in 1994.
In 1997, the station’s “up” side main building was reconstructed into a larger form using red brick, and a curved-roof steel-framed entrance was incorporated. In January 2009, preparation work started for the construction of an enclosed glazed footbridge, incorporating lifts, at the London end of the station. Costing £2.5 million, the footbridge was scheduled for a spring 2009 opening; however, just the basic steel framework of the towers had been erected by the end of May that year. Little had changed by August, but by mid-September, the span across the tracks had been lifted into position between the towers, and the roofed staircases to both platforms were in place. The bridge was officially opened in December 2009. In the following year, construction started on a multi-storey car park on the “up” side of the station, comprising 575 spaces. This opened in May 2011, by which time covered walkways had also been completed on both platforms.
A view in the Swaythling and St Denys direction from around 1975 shows the station in the form it opened in 1966. Originally, the nameboards displayed plain "Southampton Airport", but by 1971 these had gained the suffix "Eastleigh" in a smaller-sized font. All components bar the CLASP waiting shelter (which can just be seen in the right background, with flat roof) were of prefabricated concrete construction. The airport is out of view, to the left of this photograph, and in spite of considerable redevelopment of the station, the original concrete footbridge in the background of this view is still in use.
© David Glasspool Collection
A London-bound view from the prefabricated concrete footbridge of 1966 includes the airport on the right; the terminal building, hangars, and control tower date from 1994. On the left, upon the "up" platform, can be seen the main station building, which had been rebuilt in 1997. The Class 47-hauled "Virgin Cross Country" service seen here is likely from Poole, heading to either Liverpool Lime Street, Newcastle, or York.
© David Glasspool Collection