SOUTHAMPTON could benefit from a £45 billion plan to transform road and rail links across the south.

͏MPs, businesses and local authorities have revealed ambitious proposals to create a fully integrated and carbon-neutral transport system serving keys sites in the region.

Transport for the South East (TfSE) says its draft Strategic Investment Plan aims to deliver a raft of upgrades over the next 27 years.

Priorities include "appropriate links and improvements" to roads including the A326, which serves communities on the eastern side of the New Forest, and rail routes linking the Port of Southampton to the rest of the country.

Daily Echo: A new report highlights the need to improve road and rail links in the south east.A new report highlights the need to improve road and rail links in the south east.

TfSE also aims to decarbonise the transport system, level up left-behind communities and facilitate sustainable economic growth.

A report says the region needs better connectivity between international gateways and their markets, plus a transport network that is more resilient to incidents, extreme weather and the impacts of climate change.

"The M3/South Western Main Line Corridor provides important connectivity for freight traffic using the Port of Southampton, which is set to expand.

"This corridor has high capacity, including an eight-lane smart motorway and a four-tracked railway. However, it is heavily utilised and regularly suffers from congestion.

"The Main Line railway suffers from serious overcrowding at peak times. This undermines the potential of this corridor to support economic productivity and development.

Daily Echo: A new report highlights the need to improve road and rail links in the south east.A new report highlights the need to improve road and rail links in the south east.

"There are opportunities for port expansion at several locations in the south east, including Southampton. Any expansion will need to be supported by appropriate access to the highway and railway networks."

The report says the south east is the nation's major international gateway and crucial to the UK's economy.

It adds: "Southampton sees £71 billion of international trade each year and is the principal port for the automotive industry, while Portsmouth handles two million passengers a year.

"More than 120 million passengers a year use Gatwick, Southampton and Heathrow airports.

"The Port of Southampton handles the highest tonnage of freight in the south east and is the second busiest container port in the UK.

"In 2018 around 34.5 million tonnes passed through this port. Southampton also served 1.9 million cruise passengers in 2018."

Cllr Keith Glazier, chairman of TfSE, said: "Our plan is ambitious, but it is achievable.

"It will support the south east’s economy to more than double over the next 30 years. It provides the potential for new jobs, new homes and new opportunities – all supported by a modern, integrated transport network."

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