SENIOR figures at BCP Council have been told they may only receive half of the £120 million they had hoped for through a major government transport fund.

Described as a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to secure investment in the south east of Dorset earlier this year, the Transforming Cities Fund was expected to bring in more than £100 million.

But at a meeting in August, the leaders of the bid for a share of the £1.3 billion were told other parts of the country were likely to be given higher priority.

BCP Council leader Vikki Slade, speaking at Friday’s meeting of its scrutiny board, said preparations had now been made for a lower bid than had been anticipated as being needed.

In January, south east Dorset was selected as one of 12 areas eligible for the money.

Three different sets of proposals were then put forward to the Department for Transport, one for £117 million, another for £99 million and a third for £73 million.

This summer, satnav company Tom Tom revealed Bournemouth as the UK’s third most congested place – worse than Manchester, Leicester and Bristol.

According to the study, only London and Edinburgh suffered worse gridlock in the UK.

It was hoped the money would be a “game changer” and help reduce the number of cars on the conurbation’s roads by five per cent by 2023.

Proposals included creating new bus and cycling routes across the south east of Dorset from Ferndown to Wareham. Other ideas were to develop an “all-encompassing” travel app, designed to provide live information on traffic, buses and trains.

A common ticket system for multiple forms of transport, comparable to London’s Oyster card, was also being considered.

However, with the likelihood of receiving less money than anticipated, now a fourth bid, for just £63m, has been put together by BCP Council. The vast majority of this latest bid is to bankroll a new bus station in Poole and improvements to routes between Ferndown and Poole.

Speaking at Friday’s meeting, Cllr Slade said the fund had been “substantially oversubscribed”.

“It’s quite clear that there are some areas they are going to give a significant amount of money to and we are not sure why.” She said council officers had been told they were not even likely to receive the £73 million low bid originally submitted.

After May’s election in which the Unity Alliance took control of BCP Council, its deputy leader, and cabinet member for regeneration councillor Mark Howell, promised “full and serious” reviews of major ongoing projects.

Last month BCP Council controversially announced that only the link road would be built up to the edge of the planned Wessex Fields site, with the proposed flyover being put on hold.

The original plans, to create a technology and science park, allowed the link road to join Deansleigh Road behind Royal Bournemouth Hospital. A final decision on how the fund is split is expected to be made in the spring.

Councillor Mike Greene, the former Bournemouth Council cabinet member for transport who was part of the team that worked on the initial stages of the bid, told the Daily Echo: “Through two years of hard work we absolutely lined up an open goal for BCP Council, and through their inexperience, or their lack of will to engage with Members of Parliament – or just plain ineptitude – they’ve fluffed it.”

Cllr Greene said: “It is bitterly disappointing that this once in a generation opportunity has been messed up. This is half the money and the proposals virtually ignore Bournemouth and Christchurch.

“It simply will not achieve the transformation that we had hoped and worked for.“It could have been a whole network of improvements that when you put them all together, meant that potentially you were looking at a real transformation in ways people got around the BCP Council area. It included measures in Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch, with links outside that.”

Meanwhile, Simon Newport, commercial director of Yellow Buses, said: “Obviously we are disappointed that the money from the Transforming Cities Fund is likely to be half what we had hoped for. The reduced amount will of course mean far fewer improvements to the transport links across the conurbation, which are under increasing pressure from growing congestion.”

While declining to comment on the latest Transforming Cities Fund developments, Paul Kinvig, chief operating officer of Bournemouth Town Centre BID, did say: “Anything that can get people into the town centre and keep them there has to be a good thing.”