A MULTI-MILLION pound project to link Romsey with Southampton and other surrounding towns by a tram system is being investigated by major regional business organisation.

The Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has commissioned a feasibility study into creating the network which could eventually see trams run from Fareham to Southampton and then onto Romsey and Eastleigh.

The study was commissioned after the LEP’s Transport Investment Plan estimated that road congestion costs the Hampshire economy £0.4 billion per year.

The plan also highlighted the need for an integrated transport network to promote growth in the region.

Phase one of the “Solent Metro” network would see trams run from Eastleigh past the airport, down to a new station at Southampton St Mary’s, on to an interchange at Royal Pier, then back up to Westquay and Southampton Central railway station.

The plan also envisages the network - which could be trams or a light railway - being extended west to Romsey and from there back to Eastleigh, and eastwards to Segensworth.

Mark Edgerley, Romsey town centre manager, said that the new tram link would be great for the market town and the residents who live nearby.

"Anything in this area to improve public transport and make it easier to travel can only be viewed as a good thing," he added.

"It would allow for greater movement and easier movement for people to travel across the region.

"In Romsey, I think it will have two impacts: I will make it much easier for local residents to get to work in Southampton( or Eastleigh), but it equally will make it easier for people from those cities and towns to come to Romsey."

Mr Edgerley also said the system will ease pressure on car parks in the town.

He said: "Although we have adequate parking in Romsey, during events, that can be a completely different matter.

"When we have events we have never got enough parking and this can deter some people from coming.

"But the trams will allow more to attend without the need to drive into the town; it will be fantastic."

The feasibility study, which will determine whether the project will be a success, will be completed by the end of this year.

Gary Jeffries, chairman of the Solent LEP, said the scheme would cost the government “hundreds of millions” but added that the region had been “significantly under invested by the government’’ in recent years.

The study will look at the optimum routes for the Light Rail project with hopes to cover major Hampshire towns; however its main focus will be on Phase One - running trams from Southampton to Eastleigh.

Mr Jeffries added: “This initial phase would provide the catalyst for the delivery of the wider Solent Metro network, whilst improving connectivity, improving integration of ferry, air and rail, supporting improvements in air quality, reducing highway congestion, and reducing capacity challenges on mainline railway.”

Stewart Dunn, chief executive of the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce also welcomed the plans.

He said: “Southampton needs to compete on the world stage in terms of infrastructure and Southampton needs to play a major part in it.

“The proposed tram project will help to meet the demands of the Solent economy and will help to develop East-West transport links which are very poor.”