A DECISION on whether south-east Dorset will be awarded more than £100 million to fund major transport network improvements is expected in March.

The “city region” of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole and the surrounding towns was one of 12 invited by the Department for Transport (DfT) to bid for a share of the £1.2 billion transforming cities fund.

Spearheaded by BCP Council, three options ranging from £80 million to more than £115 million were submitted in November.

The transforming cities fund was announced in 2017 as a way of improving sustainable transport connections across some of the country's largest urban areas.

The progress of the south-east Dorset bid was considered by members of BCP Council's transportation advisory group at its first meeting on Wednesday.

Three levels of funding were put forward within the bid – one for £79.3 million, a second for £98.4 million and the highest for £115.7 million – and each would be topped up by about £20 million of council investment.

The smaller sum includes plans to improve connections between Poole and Ferndown and north Poole and north Bournemouth.

Cycle freeways linking Lansdowne to Christchurch, Bournemouth to Ferndown, Wareham to Poole and Merley to Poole were also included.

The medium ask adds route improvements between Bournemouth and Ferndown.

And the biggest bid also includes a cycle connection between Canford Heath and the universities alongside £10 million for new bus infrastructure.

A fourth proposal for £63 million had been drafted up following concerns that the lowest option was likely to be too high. This was not included in the final submission.

This prompted concerns from Conservative councillors at the time but the council's infrastructure director Julian McLaughlin said the government's requirements had changed this summer.

“At the early stages of bidding, the government was very clear that this was a real opportunity for the £1.2 billion to be carved between the 12 cities," he said.

“But the goalposts have changed – we don’t know for what reasons other than that they are likely oversubscribed. It was nothing to do with the local position or any political position.”

As part of the process, representatives of the region had been due to attend a Dragons Den-style event this month to present the options.

But this was cancelled following last month’s general election and submitted bids will now be considered by the DfT.

An announcement on how the funding is to be split is now expected to be made in March.