A SOUTHAMPTON MP has called on the government to back a £20million scheme to save two of the city's most important road bridges.

Labour's Alan Whitehead says the Department for Transport (DfT) should cough up to help fund Hampshire County Council's essential maintenance work to repair crumbling Redbridge Causeway.

The authority, which announced it will start phase one of the scheme next month, has managed to gather £8million for the project through reorganising other scheme across the county.

However the council remains £12million short of the £20million required for the whole scheme, after twice failing with bids to the DfT.

Mr Whitehead, MP for Southampton Test, is now calling for the government to help bridge the funding gap.

He said: "It's an important road for Southampton and it is regularly used for people coming to and from the docks.

"It's also an important link road between Southampton to the New Forest and onto the west.

"This is a scheme beyond the normal remit of a council and I think it should be a high priority.

"I hope the council will be successful in obtaining government support in the future."

Mr Whitehead's comments come after the county council announced a £1.2million project to replace 21 joints on the Redbridge Viaduct, which carries westbound traffic from Southampton to Totton.

Council road bosses say that without the work, which will result in weekend closures of part of the A35, the authority would be forced to impose weight restrictions on heavy lorries within a year.

Engineers say that salty water is currently leaking through damaged joints in the bridge, causing concrete at the base of the structure to crack.

Once the joints are repaired, the council hopes to begin phase two of the project, which will involve repairing the base of the bridge.

Civic chiefs hope that work, which is expected to cost £7million, will begin next summer.

Once that is completed, the council hopes to repair other parts of the causeway, including the bridge that carries eastbound traffic – but it will need to plug the £12million funding gap first.

Phase one meanwhile, is set to begin at 8pm on Saturday, November 4.

It will result in the closure of the westbound carriageway until 5am on Monday, November 6.

Another closure is set to take place the following weekend, before work is postponed for the Christmas period.

Weekend work is then scheduled for the same times throughout February, and the first weekend of March.

While that work is being undertaken on the bridge, teams will also complete maintenance work on the westbound Totton by-pass.

This will include resurfacing the entire road, from the bridge to Rushington Roundabout.