A31 improvement works at Ringwood delayed again by Highways England
Major multi-million pound road improvement works to a key route in the New Forest have been delayed by a year.
The £13.5m plans to add a third lane on the A31 at Ringwood have been pushed back, with its start date changing from March 2020 to March 2021.
This is just the latest setback for the project, which was previously due to start in 2019.
Highways England informed Ringwood Town Council members at a meeting last week.
Mayor Tim Ward said it was frustrating news for the town.
“We are disappointed in any delay to such an important scheme for Ringwood,” Cllr Ward said.
“We haven’t even had the final plans given to us as to what Highways England have decided to do subsequent to the consultation and asking for public comments.
“We’re still waiting for the proper schedule and the full details of when and how it is going to be delivered.
“It always seems to be par for the course with everything to do with the roads and our town which is so frustrating.”
Highways England originally said “we are committed in our 2015-2020 Delivery Plan to tackle delays on the A31 at Ringwood”.
The setback is just the latest to strike the scheme which is set to add a third lane to the westbound carriageway of the A31.
Plans to improve the M3 at junction 9 and M27 smart motorway have also been pushed back by up to 15 and six months respectively.
The delays have been described as “devastating” for commuters by a motoring group.
Highways England said the delays were to avoid clashing with other schemes it is running.
A spokesperson added: “We have rescheduled the timing of some of these road improvements so motorists using motorways and major roads face the fewest possible delays.
“This will keep our roads moving and deliver a lasting legacy for the country.”
Jack Cousens, head of road safety policy at the AA, said: “The news will be devastating to drivers who use these roads on a daily basis.
“After suffering months, if not years, of congestion at these hotspots they have had the hope of relief snatched away from them, at least for the time being.”
“We know that budgets are tight, but the efficiency improvements would assist the economy and help tackle air quality.”
Councillor Rob Humby, Hampshire County Council’s transport portfolio holder, said: “We are obviously disappointed that Highways England have decided to delay their smart motorway scheme in Hampshire, but also understand the importance of making sure the proposals are right.”
“The motorway network in the south is almost at capacity, and while a delay in delivery could see rising costs, it does provide an opportunity for the scheme to evolve over time, so that an even better solution can be provided.”