By Carolyn Griffith
Lymington Times Online – 14 April 2023
A multi-million pound project to widen the A326 aimed at reducing congestion is in "serious doubt" due to rising costs, a county councillor has claimed.
As reported in the A&T, Hampshire County Council plans to add a length of dual carriageway north from the Staplewood junction, near Marchwood, ahead of major plans to build 1,500 new homes at the former Fawley power station.
However, Liberal Democrat county councillor for Totton and Marchwood, Cllr David Harrison, claims compulsory purchases of land, compensation for people living near the A326, and a public inquiry could push the expected £80m cost to more than £100m.
"The project to widen the A326 is in serious doubt now that the likely true cost of delivering it is increasing by the month. I am reliably informed that the officers in charge of the project are expressing significant risks and doubts about the wisdom of the project.
I was shocked when I was previously told that the road widening scheme was estimated to cost £80m. Now, the latest estimate is at least £100m, with the news that Hampshire's taxpayers will be expected to stump up £15m of the costs."
"I am strongly opposed to the project. The county council are talking about a 10% biodiversity gain from it [but] it is hard to see how that will be achieved given the destruction to woodland and harm to the environment."
Cllr Harrison said he urged the Conservative-run authority to save money by dropping the entire scheme.
A spokesperson for HCC told the A&T that plans for the A326 "continue to be developed". It added:
"Public engagement activity will take place in June and July, which will present full details of the scheme proposals and seek residents' and other stakeholders' feedback on them."
Concerns were raised last year over the future of the scheme by New Forest East MP, Sir Julian Lewis who worried the possibility of reopening the Waterside railway line to passengers could damage efforts to secure the "vital" £80m funding to improve the main road.
Speaking at the time, Mr Lewis told the A&T:
"I remain concerned that the levelling-up agenda could result in the government deciding that the vital upgrade of the A326 should be rejected and that priority be given to road projects elsewhere, because we had already received substantial funding for the more problematic railway scheme.
There is no doubt that the A326 must be our top priority."
Hampshire County Council has already approved plans to create priority bus lanes along the A326 to boost public transport after it secured a share of £57m of funding from the Department for Transport's Transforming Cities Fund.
The biggest change will be a new northbound bus-only lane created before the dual carriageway on the southbound section of the A326 Marchwood bypass.
Controlled by traffic lights, the bus lane will make a right turn across the oncoming carriageway and continue along the A326 and connect to the existing northbound lane, approaching Rushington roundabout.
A new bus stop will also be created outside Hounsdown Business Park while in Totton a dead end will be opened up to create a new bus and cycle only link between Junction Road and the A36 Commercial Road. Enhanced bus stops will also be installed at Totton precinct.