Plans for tram line to link Portsmouth and Southampton labelled ‘pie in the sky’ by council leaders

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PLANS for a tram line linking Portsmouth and Southampton have been revealed today – however they have been labelled as ‘pie in the sky’ by authority leaders.

Council officials in Southampton are reported to have discussed proposals to put in a multi-million pound tram line linking to Portsmouth running alongside the main rail line.

The city council does not have the huge funding required, but council leader Simon Letts said the cash could come from the ongoing Solent devolution deal, which is seeking to create a new Solent Combined Authority to get more power from central government.

Cllr Letts said the scheme was one of several put forward to ease congestion on the motorway.

He said: ‘It’s my ambition for Southampton from the combined authority scheme. We need an effective public transport alternative to gridlock on the M27.

‘I am happy to look at all the options but to my mind Light Rapid Transit is the only viable one if we want to get people out of their cars.

‘It is a joke that it can take over an hour to do the journey between Southampton and Portsmouth on a train.’

However Cllr Donna Jones, the leader of Portsmouth City Council and a Solent LEP local authority director, told The News that she was ‘unaware’ of the plans.

Cllr Jones said: ‘The east to west connectivity is a number one priority for the Solent LEP.

‘Linking the two cities is a priority which we are working on with schemes such as a smart motorway but the tram line is a first.’

Fareham’s council leader Sean Woodward, who is also a Solent LEP local authority director, labelled the plans as ’pie in the sky’.

He said: ‘It is absolute pie in the sky. We have talked about a tram scheme for decades now.

‘The idea of the Bus Rapid Transit route is that it will eventually link from Gosport to Fareham and up to Welborne and to Portsmouth.

‘The plans for a tram link were dropped when the government pulled the money 10 to 15 years ago.

‘It is nice to talk about these things, but I think a reality check is needed.’

Plans for a tram system between Fareham, Gosport and Portsmouth, with the potential to link up with Southampton, go back as far as 1987.

Although it spent 10 years in the development stage and the costs more than quadrupled to £148m, before they were deferred by the then Labour government and never materialised.

Last month an independent report found that the key to boosting economic growth and improving the transport network in the Solent area is to focus on rail.

The report was put together by AECOM, a global infrastructure services firm, which had been working with the Solent LEP since November to look at the area.

Its findings were presented at a meeting of Hampshire County Council’s Solent Transport panel.

It said that quicker trains between the two cities, as well as an integrated transport network and bus rapid transit networks, would improve the area.

The report also acknowledged that MPs such as Fareham’s Suella Fernandes and Portsmouth’s Penny Mordaunt had been campaigning for faster rail links to London.