Motoring misery as part of A31 at Ringwood roundabout set to be shut for a year
MOTORISTS face more than a year of misery from diversions and road closures when the A31 is partially shut for a multi-million-pound revamp, councillors have warned.
It has emerged that during the project Highways England intends to shut the sliproad from the south side of the main Ringwood roundabout onto the westbound side of the dual carriageway from November 2021 until November 2022.
That has sparked fears of disruption around the town as drivers seek alternative routes and other construction work hits local roads.
The £25m scheme is planned to widen the westbound carriageway of the A31 to three lanes alongside other upgrades.
As well as shutting the westbound sliproad from Ringwood roundabout, the traffic plan also indicates a contraflow system on the eastbound carriageway during 2022, lasting from January to November.
An eastbound lane closure of the A31 is also due this October to the end of the year, according to briefings reported by the town council.
No official diversions have been revealed yet but the alternative “rat run” onto the westbound A31 via West Street has already been closed.
This year there are also set to be five months of rolling road closures of some Ringwood streets as Highways England replaces the two ageing road bridges that carry the A31 over the River Avon.
Those carry the electricity and water mains which must also be moved and rerouted. That work is expected to start in mid-May and last until October 2021.
Cllr Philip Day, Ringwood’s deputy mayor, has voiced fears about the impact on New Forest commuters and tourists, given the A31’s status as a key route for holidaymakers between the south-west and the Home Counties.
Getting out of Ringwood was going to be “increasingly challenging” until November 2022, he warned – highlighting the closure of West Street.
He said: “Whilst we await the inevitable ‘devil of the detail’, it seems to me that the economic cost and disruption not just to Ringwood but the wider area, in terms of the effect this will have on commuters and tourists to Bournemouth, Poole and the west of England, might be a very high price to pay to shave a few minutes of the journey from the top of Poulner Hill to Ashley Heath.”
Cllr Day noted further complications including Taylor Wimpey proposing to build 400 homes behind the Elm Tree pub in fields north of Hightown Road.
That includes a link between the development and the A31, with construction thought to be sometime in 2022, if approved.
The traffic management plan was revealed by Highways England in a behind-closed-doors meeting with Ringwood Town Council last week, deputy town clerk Jo Hurd confirmed.
Public briefings by Highways England this week lacked basic details about the traffic management plan, although there was a brief mention of a “contraflow”.
However, the agency did highlight preparations to protect animals, including Atlantic salmon and otter, such as setting up a pontoon in the River Avon to catch debris from the work.
It admitted to residents there was little it could do to enforce potential speeding problems along diversion routes, which are likely to be narrow, windy roads with 30mph limits.
When asked about the traffic management plan in the public presentations, a Highways England spokesperson said town councillors had not been shown the finished version which was now being reassessed.
A31 project manager Daniel Kittredge said: “We are working hard on the traffic management and diversion plans, including what they will look like and how long any closures will be needed for.”
This article was amended on 6th April 2021 to state that rolling road closures will affect the A31 bridges over the River Avon, not the road crossings that span the dual carriageway itself.