COMMUNITY leaders are split over what action should be taken following the latest in a series of accidents on a major Hampshire road.

The A326 was closed for several hours after a head-on crash that has sparked a new debate on how to reduce the number of collisions and the chaos they cause.

Politicians in the area are divided over whether the increasingly busy route should be turned into a dual carriageway.

The A326, which separates the Waterside area from the New Forest, is the only main road serving Marchwood, Hythe and other communities on the western shores of Southampton Water.

But most of the road is single carriageway, increasing the likelihood of it being blocked by a serious crash.

In the latest incident three people were taken to hospital on Friday after a collision involving a Seat Ibiza and a Toyota.

The A326 between Twiggs Lane and the Dibden Roundabout was shut in both directions for three hours.

Cllr Fred White, chairman of Marchwood Parish Council, called for the road to be made a dual carriageway, saying the move would enable police to operate a contraflow system and thus keep the route open in the event of a serious accident.

But Marchwood county councillor David Harrison warned that the move would devour part of the neighbouring New Forest National Park.

He said: “It would be a big, controversial step to try to make the road a dual carriageway.

“It could not be done without encroaching on to national park land - and it would create an even bigger barrier for people to access the New Forest.”

New Forest East MP Julian Lewis said it was difficult to suggest a remedy unless the recent accidents were found to have a common cause.

The latest crash occurred on a 50mph section of the A326 near Marchwood.

An elderly woman who was a passenger in one of the cars was taken to Southampton General Hospital with serious injuries and two other people suffered minor injuries.

Last night police said there was no update on their condition.

In January two people had to be freed from their vehicles after a head-on-crash at the junction of the A326 and Twiggs Lane.

A few days later another section of the A326 was closed after a BMW was in collision with a council dustcart near Dibden Purlieu.