DRIVERS are backing plans to upgrade a major Hampshire road used by more than 77,000 motorists a day.

Highways England has devised a multi-million-pound scheme to ease congestion on the A31 at Ringwood by adding a third lane.

More than 91 per cent of people who took part in a public consultation exercise backed the proposed improvements.

The announcement comes just three weeks after it was revealed that the £13.5 million scheme has again been postponed, with the start date being pushed back from March 2020 to March 2021.

The delay has been described as "frustrating" by Ringwood's mayor, Cllr Tim Ward.

Under the scheme the A31 westbound will be widened between the Ringwood and Verwood junctions, increasing the road's capacity and bringing it in line with new safety standards.

Highways England project manager Jens Reinke said the scheme would deliver "real improvements" for the 77,000 drivers who used the road each day.

He added: “I would like to thank everyone who took part in the consultation.

"It’s great to see that there is such strong backing for improvements to this heavily congested section of the A31 at Ringwood.

"These plans will lead to the road being safer and supporting access for people getting to Ringwood town centre not only in the car but also on foot or by bike.

“We are aware of people’s concerns about the closure of the West Street junction to the A31 and have listened to feedback.

"Around 76 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposal to close the junction for safety reasons, with around 14 per cent preferring it to stay open."

Under the scheme the westbound carriageway of the A31 between Ringwood and Verwood will be increased from two lanes to three.

Two bridges over the River Avon and Bickerley Millstream will be upgraded to accommodate the extra lane.

Highways England also aims to make the A31 safer by directing all local traffic to the Ringwood junction, preventing it from turning directly on to the dual carriageway at other locations.

West Street's junction with the A31 will be closed and one of the entry/exit points on the A31 near the Fish Inn will also be shut.

The scheme was originally due to start in 2019 but has twice been postponed.

Highways England says plans to upgrade the A31, enhance the M3 at junction 9 and turn the M27 into a smart motorway have all been delayed to prevent too many schemes taking place at the same time.

Hampshire-based motoring organisation the AA has described the move as "devastating" for commuters.


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