I start by commending the Government’s track record on transport. Spending £100 billion on infrastructure across the nation to improve our roads, railways and broadband is an unprecedented commitment to our national circulation. I am glad that it is this Conservative Government who are confidently leading the way.
I want to raise three issues. First, I am incredibly excited, thanks to the support from the Transforming Cities fund, about the proposals for the new South East Hampshire rapid transit system in the Solent region, where Fareham is located. We need to make it easier, quicker and more convenient for people to use public transport in the Solent area, and the proposals of Portsmouth City Council, Hampshire County Council and the Isle of Wight will significantly improve transport links between Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport, Havant and the Isle of Wight.
The new network will eventually serve 14 large development sites, consisting of about 17,000 new homes. It will build on the success of the Eclipse route and provide a new rapid transport corridor, running from Gosport to Fareham bus station, the Delme roundabout and Portchester, and on to Portsmouth and Waterlooville. It will include high-quality, frequent services; a single and simple ticketing system; push notifications with travel information for passengers; bus priority lanes; an enhanced park and ride system; and cleaner, greener low-emission vehicles. I wholeheartedly support the scheme and look forward to its continued progress.
Secondly, on smart motorways, the M27 is the main expressway artery going through my constituency, connecting Portsmouth and Southampton, and several junctions lie in Fareham. Thousands of people in Fareham use that motorway daily. I understand that motorways are dangerous—there is no doubt about that. Many motorists, including me, are often nervous about driving on a motorway, but for the many thousands of people in Fareham who use the M27, which is in the process of being converted into a smart motorway, the prospect of using it is becoming terrifying.
In the past five years, 38 people have been killed on smart motorways, according to a recent “Panorama” programme, and there have been 1,485 near misses on the M25 alone. Many local people in Fareham are concerned about safety. The refuge areas on some smart motorways can be up to 1.5 miles apart, when they should be located every 600 metres. The obvious problem with that is that vehicles do not always break down at a refuge area. The technology for smart motorways is not always responsive or effective. Many people in Fareham are calling for the smart motorway upgrade on the M27 to be scrapped and reversed.
I welcome the Government’s recent announcement of a review of the smart motorway programme nationally. I ask them seriously to question the safety measures in place, and to consider whether a hard shoulder could be reintroduced on parts of the motorway. We need to improve the robustness of the safety measures so that public confidence can be restored.
Finally, junction 10 has been a headache for Fareham for far too long. The junction urgently requires an upgrade into an all-moves junction, so that the infrastructure can enable the strategic development area of Welborne, a proposal for 6,000 new homes in my constituency of Fareham. That will greatly improve economic activity and benefit the region. However, we face a situation that could prove terminal for Welborne. Construction cannot take place without that junction, but we face a £40 million funding gap. I urge the Government to support me and others in Fareham to make Welborne and junction 10 happen.