Basingstoke train station is a "gateway" for transporting drugs into Hampshire, the town's MP has said as she chaired a roundtable discussion with police chiefs on how they are tackling the problem.

Maria Miller chaired the meeting also attended by Police and Crime Commissioner Donna Jones, British Transport Police's county lines taskforce lead Detective Superintendent Gareth Williams, District Commander for Basingstoke Chief Inspector Matt Reeves, Hampshire Police's lead for drug-related crime Detective Superintendent Nick Plummer, as well as director of public health at Hampshire County Council Simon Bryant and Cllr Simon Bound, chair of Basingstoke's Community Safety Partnership.

County Lines is the where illegal drugs are transported from one area to another, often across police and local authority boundaries usually by children or vulnerable people who are coerced into it by gangs.

Maria Miller said: “Police intelligence shows that gangs are using children and vulnerable adults to transport drugs using the local rail network with Basingstoke Station used as a gateway for transporting drugs into Hampshire.

"Last September, I witnessed this first hand during the British Transport Police (BTP) operation at Basingstoke station when 2 young people were caught within an hour of the Police operation starting.

"The action being taken by BTP, working with the local Hampshire Constabulary, is sending a clear signal that gangs can no longer rely on our railway network to transport drugs."

Mrs Miller added: "Drug taking is a criminal offence and far from a 'victimless crime'. Anyone in Hampshire who buys or uses drugs like cannabis and cocaine is supporting criminal organisations that exploit children as young as 13 to carry the drugs into our county.

"I would urge anyone using the train network should look at The Children’s Society #LookCloser campaign to know the key signs to spot a child being used to traffic drugs into our town and for details of how to contact the British Transport Police.”

The Gazette has reported extensively in recent years as police officers grappled to get a hold on county lines, labelled a "scourge" by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in an interview with this newspaper on a visit to the region in 2019.

In August of that year, London drugs runner Taylor Williams was stabbed to death in a drugs robbery gone wrong at a house in Shooters Way, South View.

During a trial last year, Olamide Soyege was convicted of his murder, whilst Terence Maccabee was cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter.