AMBITIOUS plans to build a "supertram" in south Hampshire have a 70 per cent chance of being given a green light, according to the government's tram supremo.

David Rowlands, top civil servant in the Department of Transport, rejected claims the troubled project had been killed off after costs spiralled from £170m to £270m.

Instead, he insisted the South Hants Rapid Transit scheme could still be completed - despite being plagued by delays.

In July, Transport Secretary Alistair Darling shelved plans for the supertram, which would have linked Fareham, Gosport and Portsmouth, claiming it had become too expensive.

But Mr Rowlands told a group of MPs: "We have not scrapped the scheme. What we have done is withdraw final approval in the face of escalating costs."

Mr Rowlands said local councils must come up with better, cheaper designs before the transport department would "make a strong case" for approving funding and building the tram.

Edward Leigh, chairman of the Commons' cross-party Public Accounts Committee, asked what the chance was of south Hampshire getting a light rail network, "on a scale of one to ten".

Mr Rowlands replied: "I'm tempted to say about six-and-a-half to seven that something will happen, but I can't tell you what that something is."

But he added: "There has been no decision to kill the plans. We have no wish to kill them." His comments came during a ferocious grilling at the hands of MPs, who were scathing about the way the government had run a series of highly problematic tram projects.

Mr Rowlands admitted ministers had allowed tram projects to "slip out of control".

The supertram, aimed at removing three million cars a year from the congested M27 and A32, is being spearheaded by Hampshire County Council and Portsmouth City Council.