DRIVERS are set to face traffic chaos as buses will replace train services to and from Southampton this weekend, when part of the M27 will also be closed.

As previously reported, the M27 will be closed from junction three to five from tonight to allow work to rebuild Romsey Road bridge.

Traffic will be diverted as the motorway will be closed until 5am on Monday.

READ: The 58-mile diversion route drivers face this weekend when the M27 closes

Residents were urged to use public transport and plan their journey ahead.

But train operating companies have now announced that train services between Southampton, Eastleigh, Portsmouth and Romsey will be replaced by buses to allow work on the lines to Southampton Docks.

The decision has been described as ridiculous and unwise.

Southampton Itchen MP Royston Smith said: “This is the worst of all worlds. If this is routine maintenance then I have serious concerns.

"It’s not that the M27 works haven’t been well publicised.

"Unless these works are absolutely necessary then they should be postponed until after the proposed closure of the M27.”

READ: What you need to know about the Romsey Road Bridge M27 closure

Daily Echo:

(The diverson route drivers face going westbound)

Caroline Nokes, MP for Romsey and Southampton North, added: “I would have hoped that various transport authorities would have worked together in order to avoid simultaneous disruption.

"The addition of rail replacement buses could significantly increase disruption in the area at a time when roads are already likely to be under greater pressure.”

In a statement South Western Railway said stopping services between Salisbury and Southampton will be altered to run between Salisbury and Eastleigh via Romsey and bus services will run between Eastleigh and Southampton Central and between Southampton Central and Romsey via Millbrook and Redbridge.

Network Rail, who is responsible for the work, was unable to confirm the nature of the work and provide a comment before the Daily Echo went to press.

But a South Western Railway spokesperson said: “Due to Network Rail’s track maintenance works this weekend, we will need to close platforms 3 and 4 at Southampton Central station late on Saturday evening and all day on Sunday. Whilst the station will still be open, we will need to operate a revised train service. Rail replacement bus services will be in place on some routes to help passengers get to where they want to be.”

Daily Echo: Southampton Central Station

Great Western Railway (GWR) services will be replaced by buses between Southampton Central and Portsmouth Harbour but a spokesperson for GWR said replacement bus services between Southampton, Fareham and Portsmouth are not affected by the road closure.

Southampton Independents councillor Andrew Pope said the replacement of trains with buses and the roadworks will cause problems in the city.

“It shows a lack of coordination which is ridiculous but I’m not surprised. Past experience taught us that there will be problems. But I hope there has been the correct coordination between the authorities.

"People can understand that roadworks sometimes are necessary but the issue is [the authorities] have to coordinate to minimise disruption. They should not rely on the public to do that,”he said.

And added: “The city council and the county council don’t coordinate well with Highways England and Network Rail.”

Highways England said Network Rail was aware of the roadworks and the closure of the M27 this weekend.

John Henderson, Highways England route sponsor, said: “They already know what we are doing and there is nothing further we can do.

"We reappraised our plans to see if there is anything we can do but our plans are so complicated that it is not possible to make any change.

"I don’t know the number of buses they are putting out. Usually there is not many replacement buses so it should not have a big impact.”

Mr Henderson is also urging residents to follow the diversion routes.

Westbound traffic faces a 58 mile diversion, driving up as far as Andover and the A303, out to Salisbury and back round to Southampton.

This will turn a ten-minute drive into a two-hour loop of Hampshire.

Mr Henderson said: “We would advise people to keep to the diversion routes because they are designed to keep the traffic flow in the region. As long as people keep on the diversion routes we are not anticipating major disruptions.”

Highways England has also confirmed that there are special arrangements in place with the emergency services in the event of an incident but the routes set to be used by the emergency services have not been revealed.

As previously reported, Southampton bus company Bluestar has also prepared extra buses ahead of the M27 closure.

Daily Echo: Bluestar busses, near their staion on the Below Bar area of Southampton (30264597)

The company said it is anticipating higher levels of traffic and will have extra drivers and buses on standby, ready to step in to maintain reliability.

Romsey Road bridge carries the A3057 over the M27 between Upton and Nursling.

Highways England said the replacement bridge has a different design and will have a lifespan of 120 years.

After the first weekend of work this year, the M27 will be closed again next year, April 26 to 29 and between October 18 and 21.