A £12m plan to help ease chronic congestion in the conurbation has been launched.

The Three Towns Travel partnership between Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch, includes new cycle routes, better public transport and traffic management and more information for people to plan their journeys.

It focuses on the "3 Towns Corridor" - the A35 - and will mean better street lights, improved junction priority for buses, upgraded bus shelters, linked cycle routes and removal or clarification for signs for pedestrians and public transport.

See the plan in full here

But local council chiefs have denied the project is merely “tinkering at the edges” of the area's huge traffic problems.

Cllr Michael Filer, Bournemouth's cabinet member for transportation told the Daily Echo: “This is not a second best option.

“The conurbation will have more houses, more jobs and more people over the next few years and we need to address the traffic implication with this long term plan to offer a more integrated local transport system.

He added: “We need a local network that is fit for purpose.”

The government money will be spent along the key east - west route which features some of the worst gridlock blackspots like Christchurch bypass, Barrack Road, Castle Lane and Wallisdown.

Cllr Filer said there was no money and no appetite for the big, proposed infrastructure schemes of the past, such as the Branksome and Wallisdown relief roads, both dropped 20 years ago.”

“These proposals are not the whole thing, they are just the start.”

He said the prime aim of Three Towns Travel was to support the economy by minimising congestion.

Cllr Peter Finney, Dorset's highways cabinet member representing Christchurch, said: “We are trying to open up lots more options for people to travel to work.

“If we don't do something, places like Wallisdown Road may well be impassable in 13 years time. We need to free up the roads.”

The chairman of Dorset's Local Enterprise Partnership, Gordon Page, said the estimated cost of congestion to Dorset's economy was around £300m a year. He described the figure as “intolerable” and the traffic congestion was “an insidious block to our progress.”

More substantial projects would need to be considered as part of the bigger picture.