ROAD users could face a year of traffic chaos as a busy slip road onto the A31 could close for a year.

Highways England plans to introduce a third lane and widen the A31 in Ringwood when works start later this year.

The aim of the £25million scheme is to “improve safety, reduce congestion, improve journey time reliability and to improve facilities for walkers, cyclists and horse riders in the local area and link with routes in and around the area”.

However, the works mean the westbound slip road from the Ringwood Roundabout will close in November, potentially for a whole year.

Although no official diversions have been revealed, it could mean drivers are forced to travel east and turning at Poulner to head West towards Bournemouth.

A contraflow system will also be in place, meaning road users travelling west will move to the eastbound carriageway.

Highways England project manager Daniel Kittredge said at a public meeting on the scheme: “Our current proposals are from November this year, it is not fully confirmed yet.

“From November, we need to reconstruct the slip road performing the main access to the site.

“There is going to be significant improvement to the drainage to assist with the issues that occur when there is heavy rainfall.

“From January 2022, the A31 westbound will be closed to allow us to do the reconstruction work, construction of a third lane and demolition work.”

Mr Kittredge said the “likely proposal” for a diversion would be for motorists to travel to Pickett Hill and turn around, adding time to their journey.

“We are working hard on the traffic management and diversion plans, including what they will look like and how long any closures will be needed for. We will report back to stakeholders and residents when we have finalised these plans,” he added.

The meeting, which had dozens of local residents virtually attend, was also told that a journey from Southampton to Ringwood could take 32 minutes longer at peak times because of the closure.

Councillor Philip Day, deputy mayor of Ringwood, said the closures were going to cause “chaos”.

Cllr Day told the daily Echo: “I suppose they have to do it, I am surprised at how long it is going to take.

“We have contraflow from January next year right through to November, at least there will be two lanes in both directions.

“I dread to think what is going to happen. If you are having to go eastbound, the slip road to Poulner is very short, you get any amount of traffic it is inevitably going to cause tailbacks onto the A31.”