Drivers face year and a half of roadworks in major A31 revamp

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The A31 near its junctions with the A338

A MAJOR £13.5m project to revamp the A31 will take up to 78 weeks to complete, it has been revealed – more than double the original estimate.

The overhaul proposal by Highways England suggests widening part of the A31 to three lanes and closing off feeder road West Street.

Scheduled to start in late March 2021, the works are set to be carried out by contractor Jacobs and funded by the Department for Transport’s £15bn Roads Investment Strategy.

Previously the highways authority had indicated it would take 33 weeks to finish

But deputy Ringwood Town Council clerk Jo Hurd revealed highways bosses told councillors the timeframe had been amended during a recent meeting.

It was planned the main part of the project would take 26 weeks, she said.

It was expected to be the most disruptive because it will see a contraflow system set up that will shut off the westbound carriageway and is planned to happen outside the height of summer.

There will be a period during the works when the A31 is shut off completely during the night time, she said. That was to transfer in the new bridges for the road, which will be constructed out of steel.

Mrs Hurd said the traffic had definitively ruled out dropping the speed limit to 50mph. They were unlikely to have a barrier at the West Street exit to allow emergency vehicles access because it was too expensive and cyclists and bikers would be able to circumvent it, she said.

But members had challenged them strongly and Cllr Michael Thierry established Highways England had not actually established how much it would cost. As a result the bosses vowed to look at it again before ruling it out. They had also said West Street would be closed off before the work starts.

She revealed members mooted having four lanes rather than three and Highways England said that was something it would explore.

But, Mrs Hurd warned, a gas main ran through the verge and the “costs of diverting” that could be prohibitive to it being enacted.

Mrs Hurd said there was anger among the delegation because the Highways England project manager admitted at the meeting he had not read any of the documents relating to the main project.

Hearing that baffled Cllr Tim Ward. “Did you just say the project manager from the project team had not read the traffic management plan?” he asked, prompting laughter from other members.

Cllr Chris Treleaven added Highways England successfully bid for £380,000 worth of extra funding for a series of connected projects.

But that had to be spent only on schemes that benefitted traffic management and could be planned and constructed within 12 months, otherwise the money would be lost, Cllr Treleaven explained.

He added Cllr Jeremy Heron had questioned whether any unspent money would be transferred instead to the main project were it to overspend.

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