LIKE Phil Woodward (Echo letters), I find the current ideas for better public transport rather optimistic.

However, his view that Southampton is too small for tram services is debatable. Britain’s new tram systems are a huge success, growing to meet public demand. They typically serve medium-length routes in large built-up areas. For example, Manchester’s Metrolink includes Bury and Rochdale, and Sheffield Supertram includes Rotherham.

The Office for National Statistics ranks South Hampshire (broadly the Southampton-Havant corridor) as the seventh most populous built-up area in the UK, below Manchester but above Sheffield.

The South Hampshire Rapid Transit scheme was to link Portsmouth, Gosport and Fareham, and possibly continue to Southampton and Hythe. It was thwarted by the spiralling cost of the exceptionally deep tunnel needed under Portsmouth Harbour.

There are some opportunities for introducing better train services at Southampton’s local stations, as is happening around Bristol and Exeter. However, both the Portsmouth and Southampton networks are busy, and realising their full potential is likely to incur substantial long-term investment. Enhancements like segregated tracks into central Portsmouth for trains via Fareham and via Havant, and a tunnel from Southampton Central to Woolston to release capacity for main line freight services, come to mind.

Denis Fryer Email