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TRANSPORT links in the Solent area need to be drastically improved to cope with the growing population and to improve productivity, according to a report published today.

The Solent LEP published its Strategic Transport Infrastructure Plan, which could provide millions of pounds of funding for the region, after a meeting of MPs in Westminster.

Gary Jeffries, Solent LEP chairman, said: ‘This plan sets out a clear and bold ambition that in the period up to 2040 we support and prioritise strategic transport investment that will underpin the development of the Solent so that it can achieve its economic potential.’

He said that a ‘metro-style public transport service’ connecting Portsmouth and Southampton, alongside improving rail connections to London, would be key to unlocking the Solent’s growth potential over the next 25 years.

Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond welcomed the report and said it would lay down a marker for pressure to be applied for much-needed investment.

She said she would be fighting to ensure that Portsmouth gets its share of the cash.

‘This report very clearly reinforces the point that I have been making to the government since I was elected - that Portsmouth and the surrounding area suffers from an infrastructure deficit,’ she said.

Experts from the Solent LEP estimate that the Solent area could see another 61,000 jobs created by 2030. Mrs Drummond said it will therefore be crucial to have the transport infrastructure to support this and that a well-performing transport system will help boost economic growth throughout the area.

Mrs Drummond added: ‘The plan is a forward-thinking strategy that will seek to address existing and forecasted challenges. Better transport links will support future housing development and increase co-operation between the two economic powerhouses along the south coast – Portsmouth and Southampton.’

The plan will also aim to close an ‘infrastructure deficit’ between the Solent area and the rest of the south, caused by historic under-investment. One of the main priorities would be the Portsmouth and Southampton corridor, which could involve a major upgrade of the rail link between the two cities as the report recognised that current rail journeys are not competitive compared to car travel.

‘If this region is to improve its productivity to the same level as that of the rest of the south east, then we have to address the shortfall in expenditure in infrastructure,’ Mrs Drummond added.

‘Studies consistently show that high-quality transport links improve productivity, and this report shows that Portsmouth stands to benefit greatly from any planned future investment.

‘I will be working closely with the Solent LEP to ensure that Portsmouth gets its fair share of the funding.’