SOUTHAMPTON'S two city MPs today called on huge government investment in the city to ease the pain of the Dibden Bay decision.

They said millions of pounds need ploughing into the city's transport network if the port is to continue its success well into the 21st century.

Southampton Test MP Alan Whitehead said the decision cast black clouds over the future of the port.

He said: "This is very bad news for the port and very bad news for Southampton."

The Labour backbencher said the government must now urgently upgrade rail and road links to the docks so the port was capable of handling the projected growth in sea freight.

He said: "Southampton will become full as a port in the next few years so the question of it not being able to deal with demand will become a reality. The matter of the port working well is very important to Southampton. It threatens bad news if it does not."

Mr Whitehead said scrapping the new container port would cost Southampton in terms of fresh jobs and investment. He believed the environmental concerns highlighted by the planning inspector could have been addressed by ABP.

Fellow Labour MP John Denham, for Southampton Itchen, also expressed his disappointment. He said: "It is a blow to the port. We understand that the inspector rejected on environmental grounds.

"While we hoped the alternative proposals put forward by ABP would have satisfied the inspector about the environment, it is galling they weren't enough.

"However, it is difficult to go against the judgement we have got on this issue."

Mr Denham, a former government minister, said: "Urgent action now needs to be taken to tackle congestion problems in the port.

"We must also improve rail links to the Midlands and the north.

"We want to sit down with ABP to discuss the way forward. It is also important to meet with ministers to discuss what support can be given to the port in Southampton."

New Forest West MP Desmond Swayne could hardly contain his joy.

The Tory front-bench MP said: "I must admit the vibes were bad and getting worse the longer this dragged on. I was getting pretty depressed about it.

"So to get this news has made my day, made my week in fact. How can it get better?

"I always believed that to have a major container port, plus all the traffic and ancillary services, in a sensitive spot like Dibden Bay made nonsense of the idea of maintaining the New Forest as one of western Europe's premier conservation sites."