A MAJOR transport plan worth up to £250m could ease commuters’ congestion woes in and around Southampton, the Daily Echo can reveal.

The plan could see two old bridges rebuilt and expanded to ease pressure on routes used by thousands of people each day.

One of the busiest roundabouts in the area, at Windhover, could also see major work to allow it to cope with the large numbers of motorists using it.

Transport chiefs at the city council have been in discussions with Highways England about the major new plan, which could see between £100m and £250m spent on the scheme.

One part of the scheme would see the Northam railway bridge, leading up to the main Northam Bridge just north of St Mary’s Stadium, replaced with a new bridge.

This would see the road widened to contain dual carriageways in both directions.

The new bridge could be built while the old one is still operational to reduce the impact of the works.

Northam Bridge, which has 30mph dual carriageways in each direction, is one of the city’s busiest routes and commuters using it regularly encounter congestion at peak times.

Some of the congestion is caused by the route narrowing to a bottleneck at the railway bridge, and transport chiefs hope that replacing it could solve the problem.

The second bridge which could be replaced is over Wide Lane in Swaythling, leading on to Stoneham Way.

Similarly, the current bridge only allows for a single lane of traffic each way and it could be replaced and the road widened.

While the plans are at a very early stage, Highways England said they also could create extra capacity for traffic at junctions on the ever-busy M27, such as junction eight.

The Windhover roundabout would also be redesigned and improved, although at this stage it is unclear exactly what work would take place.

Highways England says the project is necessary to “allow traffic to avoid unnecessary travel on the motorway”.

Consultation could be launched next year, before a final decision on the exact plans.

While some parts of the project will be carried out earlier than others, it is hoped that some of the work will be able to commence in 2019/20, with the Northam railway bridge taking between a year and 18 months to complete.

Funding for the project will come from £15.2bn of spending committed to major road improvements across the UK by Highways England.

Other improvements set to be carried out as part of the commitment include widening the carriageway of the M3 between the interchange with the M27 at junction 14 and junction 12 for Eastleigh.

And it also includes the upgrade of the M271 Redbridge roundabout, previously reported, that would provide a dedicated left turn lane for traffic leaving the M271 to go to Southampton’s Port.

Talking about the Northam railway bridge project, Jacqui Rayment, inset left, Southampton City Council’s cabinet member for transport, said: “Obviously as a ward councillor representing this area this has been something that has been talked about for some time. I think it’s a really positive step forward that we are now having serious and realistic conversations about what might happen.

“As cabinet member I am delighted that Highways England are looking at how they can invest further in the city and for the people coming in and out of Southampton on the eastern corridor this has got to be a good thing to do.

“I really welcome it, I’m conscious it will create a number of problems but we need to work together to mitigate against that.”

Southampton Itchen MP Royston Smith said: “Southampton’s economy has suffered due to the significant congestion on the eastern route into the city, particularly on the Northam rail bridge.

“We have the busiest and most successful cruise port in Northern Europe and improved access into the city and the port is to be welcomed.

“These improvements are long overdue and I’m pleased they are finally going to happen.

“We are investing in Southampton’s infrastructure for future generations.”

A spokesman for Hampshire-based motoring organisation the AA, said: “It’s welcome news.

“It can only help access to the strategic roads network and the M27 in particular.

“Traffic is growing, there’s no question of that, so it’s good to see investment, the problem is getting from the start of the scheme to completion which is what drivers will find is the worst thing to deal with.

“But it’s about making sure we can minimise disruption throughout construction.”