SALISBURY is yet again set for a weekend of travel misery as motorway traffic is pushed into the city as part of a 55-mile diversion.

Highways chiefs have been accused of risking a repeat of the jams which hit Salisbury when a section of the M27 was closed last year as part of a £19 million bridge replacement project outside of Southampton.

Now drivers will be told to take the same 55-mile detour when the motorway shuts again next month to enable engineers to complete the scheme.

Between 10pm on Friday January 10 and 5am on January 13, motorists heading west on the M27 will have to join the M3 and travel via Winchester, Andover and Salisbury before finally rejoining the motorway at Ower.

The same diversion was used during a similar weekend closure in September 2018.

Salisbury Journal:

At the time, Highway bosses were urged to rethink the diversion, and during a second M27 closure earlier this year westbound traffic only had to travel as far north as Winchester before doubling back via Romsey.

Highways England described the new routes as the "best possible arrangement".

However, Highways England has decided to revert to the original diversion for the third and final closure.

The M27 - used by 140,000 vehicles a day - will once again be shut in both directions between junctions 3 and 4.

Eastbound traffic will have to leave the M27 at Ower and go through Romsey before joining the M3 near Winchester - a much shorter journey than the one faced by people travelling west.

A Highways England spokesman said: "We will be reverting to the diversion routes that were in operation during the first weekend closure in September 2018.

"We have selected diversion routes which disperse the (westbound) traffic as much as possible, make the best use of the Highways England network, and avoid residential areas wherever possible."

An AA spokesman said: "Inevitably, in the age of the SatNav, drivers will look for alternative routes."

As reported, engineers have spent months replacing the Romsey Road bridge, which carries the A3057 over the M27 near Chilworth.

The third closure will enable engineers to demolish what remains of the old structure.

Highways England is warning that traffic on roads near the closed section of motorway will be "much greater than normal" and are urging drivers to allow a "significant amount" of extra time for their journeys.

A spokesman said: "We are aware this is going to impact the roads locally and further afield.

"We have written to over 5,200 homes advising of the closure and will add to our static road signage with electronic (VMS) signage in the coming weeks."

The first closure enabled contractors to start demolishing the old bridge, which was built in the 1970s and was nearing the end of its life.

The M27 was closed again in June while the bridge's pre-built replacement was moved into position.

The operation was completed 36 hours ahead of schedule - but highway bosses say the January work is highly unlikely to finish early.

Last night a Highways England spokesman said it was possible to use the shorter diversion in June because the work was not expected to take more than 24 hours.

He added: "It was also possible to keep Romsey Road open. This is not possible this time as the old bridge is being demolished."