SOUTHAMPTON residents have been warned of potential traffic chaos this weekend with the M27 closure set to clash with the welcoming of five cruise ships into the city’s docks.

Tens of thousands of drivers are set to be diverted off the M27 this weekend, when the motorway closes between junctions 3 and 4 for Highways England's work on Romsey Road Bridge.

Southampton is also expecting an influx of traffic on Saturday, with five cruise ships, including Independence of the Seas and Azura, set to dock that day.

Now city traffic chiefs are warning drivers to expect “significant delays” around Southampton.

Councillor Jacqui Rayment, Cabinet Member for Transport and Place at Southampton City Council, said: “We will be doing what we can in Southampton to minimise the impact of the Highways England closure of the M27 and to warn people of disruption.

“There will be no roadworks on the diversion route.

“There will also be five cruise ships docked in Southampton on Saturday and as such we expect significant delays to journey times in and around the city, so please do plan ahead.

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“If you’re travelling to or around Southampton over that weekend make sure you allow extra time for your journey and consider public transport, walking or cycling where possible.”

The warning comes as Highways England announced the diversion routes for this weekend’s closure, which begins at 10pm on Friday.

Westbound traffic will be via M3 junction 11 down the A3090 through Romsey and down the A36 to M27 junction 2.

Lorries will be diverted off at M27 junction 5, along the A27 to Chilworth roundabout, then along the A27 through North Baddesley, down the A3057, onto the M271 and re-joining the M27 at junction 3.

Travelling Eastbound, light vehicles on the M27 originating from the A31 heading to London/M3 will be diverted off at M27 junction 2 to use the A36 and the A3090 through Romsey towards M3 junction 11.

HGVs on the M27 coming from the A31 heading for London will be diverted off the above route at Romsey, onto the A27 and the A33 to join the M3 northbound.

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Traffic of any type on the M27 coming from the A31 and heading towards M27 east will be diverted at junction 3 to head up the M271 and A3057 northbound.

Traffic will then be diverted, before it reaches Romsey, to join the eastbound A27, heading through North Baddesley to re-join the M27 at junction 5.

The closure, which is expected to last until 5am on Monday, July 1, is to allow engineers to install the new Romsey Road Bridge.

It follows a closure in September, to allow the demolition of part of the old bridge, which highways chiefs say is nearing the end of its life.

Two narrow older bridges are being replaced with a single new one, designed to last 120 years.

The new bridge weighs 1,069 tonnes – as much as 15 space shuttles - and will be lifted into place using self-propelled modular transporters, which are remote-controlled, self-powered low-loader lorries.

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These lorries will lift the bridge into place from the carriageway.

Highways England project manager Andrew Winson said: “The installation of the new Romsey Road bridge marks a major milestone in this scheme and is the next step towards opening a brand-new bridge for people in the area and users of the A3057.

“Our approach to replacing this bridge has meant that we can avoid months of disruption on the M27 and carry out the big operations over three weekends, spread out over time.

“But, while this means less disruption overall, closing the M27 will inevitably cause disruption, so I strongly urge drivers to plan ahead and avoid the area if possible.”

“The weather is expected to be very warm this weekend, so if travelling by car, please take some extra water on your journey just in case the diversion routes are busy, which they are expected to be.”