Proposals to build a railway station in Corby in Northamptonshire have been boosted by Network Rail's decision to commit £1.2m to the scheme.
Corby is thought to be the biggest town in Europe without a station
The decision means that if the government approves the scheme later this year the new station could open by December 2008.
Businesses have campaigned for Corby to get a rail link to London.
A rail line goes through Corby but there is no stop at the town and it is a minor line mainly used for freight.
Corby MP Phil Hope said: "I welcome the news that Network Rail has decided to allocate an investment of £1.2m into the preparation of Corby's rail station.
"This is yet another large step forward towards our ultimate goal which is to secure a direct Corby to London passenger rail service by 2008.
"Confidence in Corby amongst investors will be further boosted by this important announcement."
Bob Lane, chief executive of the North Northants Development Company (NNDC), said: "This announcement is great news and means another important piece of the jigsaw is in place ahead of this summer's decision on whether the new East Midlands rail franchise will include Corby.
"This investment from Network Rail will put in place the necessary engineering, signalling and platform work required to open a new station in Corby.
"In the meantime, NNDC and its partners are moving ahead with plans for the station building itself so that, pending a positive decision for Corby, we can ensure the passenger rail service is up and running by December 2008."