RESIDENTS, shoppers and commuters are facing eight months of motoring misery from today, when a major Southampton road is ripped up for gas works.

The £381,000 project to renew 1,200 metres of gas main will see parts of busy Portswood Road closed or disrupted for around 32 weeks.

Sections between Belmont Road and Lodge Road are to be affected, meaning headaches for those living in the Portswood, Highfield and Hampton Park areas, with a major route into and out of the city centre impeded.

The work will cause problems for the many businesses along Portswood's high street, with access along the main shopping parade severely restricted for long periods of time.

Bus passengers could also be set for delays to their journeys, with several routes having to be diverted around the affected area.

Southern Gas Networks, which is carrying out the project, says it is essential to ensure supplies of fuel because the mains pipes are coming to the end of their useful life.

The existing metal pipes will be ripped up and replaced with plastic polyethylene ones - which have a minimum lifespan of 85 years.

"This is a major project to replace the mains and secure the supplies for years to come," said a company spokeswoman.

"We have sent out nearly 3,000 letters to residents and businesses who could be affected, detailing what we're doing and what to expect.

"We need to use quite heavy machinery to install the pipes, and we have spoken at length with the highways authority and local bus companies because diversions will be in place."

Preliminary work will begin today for around a week, between the junctions with Belmont Road and the crossroads with Highfield Lane and St Denys Road, but it is not expected that this will cause any disruption to traffic.

From Monday, May 26, the high street will be closed to westbound traffic between Brookvale Road and the Highfield Lane crossroads, next to The Mitre pub.

That work is expected to take 16 weeks, and then the contractors will move on to the section between Lodge Road and Brookvale Road.

Portswood Road will be reduced to a single lane, regulated by traffic lights, for another 16 weeks.

A spokesman for Southampton City Council said the authority would be holding regular meetings with Southern Gas Networks to monitor the progress of the project.

Residents will have access to their homes throughout the work, and pedestrian entry to shops and businesses will also be unaffected.