IT is one of the busiest travel periods of the year, and motorists in Hampshire are being warned to brace themselves for an exceptionally hectic long weekend. Thousands of passengers are due to come in and out of Southampton as eight cruise ships dock in the city between today and bank holiday Monday. People wanting a weekend away will also face no train services from Southampton Central railway station, which will be closed from today until Monday and replaced with buses as essential improvement work continues. Adding to the problems will be ongoing city centre road works in Platform Road and Western Esplanade. Drivers have been urged to consider delaying their journey until this afternoon, when traffic is expected to be relatively quiet. Among the busiest roads will be the M27, all of the M3, the A31 through the New Forest and the A303 in the north of the county. Southampton Airport also expects 35,000 passengers through its doors from now until April 24. Traffic bosses at Southampton City Council will be hoping to avoid a repeat of previous hold-ups in the city centre by advising motorists to avoid the area at peak times on Saturday. As reported, there was serious congestion in January as five cruise ships docked in port at the same time, forcing some cruise passengers to abandon cars and taxis, while pensioners were forced to urinate on the street. And with two ships in the city today, three tomorrow (Saturday, two on Sunday and one on Monday, traffic bosses say a raft of measures will be introduced to reduce the impact of congestion on the road network. They include variable message signs containing traffic updates, while Dock Gate 4’s junction has been widened to improve traffic flow. Traffic officers will also work closely with Associated British Ports (ABP), cruise operators and businesses to ensure passengers are aware of the best route to get them to and from Dock Gate 4. A city council spokesman said: “The busiest times are expected to be between 11am and 2pm on Saturday around the southern part of the city, coming in from the M271. If journeys to this part of the city are not essential drivers may wish to travel outside of the peak times or come into the city using a different route.” On the closure of the railway station, Jim Morgan, infrastructure director for the Network Rail and the South West Trains Alliance, said: “We recognise that this is not ideal and we are sorry for the inevitable disruption that will be caused.”
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