Maldon is a step closer to being reconnected to other parts of the country by rail after a gap of more than half a century.

In February, the Government announced the establishment of a £500million 'Restoring Your Railway Fund' to look into the possibility of reopening routes closed following the Beeching Report in 1962.

The report recommended closure of the whole line between Braintree and Maldon.

And although a campaign to retain the Braintree to Witham service was successful, the Witham to Maldon section failed and the last passenger train left Maldon on September 6, 1964.

Freight trains continued to run until April 1966, but the track was removed in 1969.

Following closure of the line, the section of track into Maldon East station was used for a road into the Fullbridge area and the section linking Maldon East and Maldon West became the route of the Maldon bypass.

The Government invited applications for the restoration of services which were axed as a result of the Beeching Report.

Maldon MP John Whittingdale joined forces with the district council to submit a bid for the restoration of the Maldon to Witham branch line.

It was also supported by Witham MP Priti Patel and Essex County Council.

The proposal has now cleared the first hurdle and moved to the second stage where a more detailed case will be submitted.

Mr Whittingdale welcomed the news.

He said: “Since the line from Maldon to Witham was lost in the 1960s, the town has grown considerably with increasing levels of traffic congestion and pollution.

“A restoration of the line connecting Maldon with the Greater Anglia rail network would save travellers time and money, reduce congestion on the roads and improve the environment.

“I am most grateful to Maldon District Council for the work that they have put into developing this plan and am delighted that it has moved to the next stage.

"I very much hope that it may eventually lead to Maldon being back on the rails.”