A network of high-technology electric trams may eventually link Havant in the east with Southampton in the west, and extend to Eastleigh, where the expansion of the airport that is underway will soon bring increased traffic.
An initial pounds 86m scheme - the Light Rapid Transit System - including a proposed pounds 40m tunnel under Portsmouth harbour with an underground train link with Gosport, is intended to ease local transport problems.
A project team started work this week to promote the plan for an LRT Fareham/Gosport/Portsmouth link which the council aims to get under way in two years with a transport and works order - although it anticipates that a public inquiry may be needed before work can begin.
Assuming that the council is successful in obtaining government funding, boosted by private investment and local authority funds, the scheme should be in operation by the beginning of the next century.
'Like many other counties we face the fact that we cannot provide for our transport needs in the future by merely building new roads,' said John Elkins, county surveyor. 'Instead, a new approach is necessary. We have spent pounds 180,000 just planning the LRT system, which would have the effect of shifting people from the motor car to public transport.'
Alan Lloyd, chairman of the planning and transport committee, said: 'If we can get government support when we need it, the initial scheme should be running by the year 2000. The delay envisaged before we can start is rather depressing, as there are so many legal hurdles to be overcome.'
The 14-kilometre link is merely a beginning. The council has a vision of the pounds 400m South Hampshire Metro which could follow, in which a light electric tramway scheme is envisaged by early next century. This would extend the network through the southern sector and north to Eastleigh where congestion on the newly opened M3 spur is affecting motorists and local industry alike.
The modern tramway, already adopted and running in Sheffield and Manchester, uses electrically-powered vehicles capable of running on tracks along city streets or on segregated tracks.