A MULTI-MILLION pound bridge replacement scheme is set to be delayed as the closure of part of the M27 planned for the end of April has been pushed back.

The £19 million project to knock down and replace the Romsey Road bridge is now set to be completed in January 2020 instead of autumn 2019.

This comes after the closure of the M27 between junction three and five planned for April 26 to April 29 has been cancelled due to “unforeseen ground conditions”.

Not to coincide with the planned road closure which in September saw motorists facing traffic misery, the date of the Southampton Marathon was moved from the end of April to the first weekend of May.

Organisers of the event said this resulted in a drop in the number of entries, but acknowledged that the roadworks are much needed and said it is just unfortunate that the closure has now been pushed back.

Highway bosses said the M27 will instead close to traffic from late Friday 28 June to early Sunday 30 June.

They said the decision was made after an assessment of the  ground conditions around the old bridge showed that extra work is needed to strengthen the embankments where the bridge foundations will go.

They said it was not possible to assess some ground conditions near the old bridge until it was removed and stressed that it is better in the long run to resolve these issues now.

As previously reported, the Romsey Road bridge carries the A3057 over the M27 between Upton and Nursling.

Highways England, which is leading the scheme, said the replacement bridge has a different design and will have a lifespan of 120 years.

But although the motoway will not be closed at the end of the month, organisers of the Southampton Marathon said the event will still take place on May 5.

Chris Rees, event organiser, said: “It is unfortunate that the date changed but it was too late for us. People had booked accommodations and started training. We thought to keep the date the same but we are going back to April next year.”

He said usually about 10,000 runners take part to event but due to the change of date this year there will be around 8,000 runners.

Mr Rees said May is usually a busy month with other events planned across the city and the country and this is why the marathon in Southampton usually takes place at the end of April.

“It is unfortunate but there’s nothing Highways England can do about it. We felt it was one of these things that needed to be done,” he added.

Ms Rees said they had originally decided to change the date after the closure of the M27 in September saw motorists stuck in traffic across the city.

As reported, lorry drivers had to face a 58-mile diversion route to get in and out of Southampton as the motorway was closed to allow the works to replace the bridge.

But Highways England, which in September reopened the road earlier than expected, has now reassured drivers that the closure will be shorter and unlike last time, Romsey Road will remain open, in a bid to minimise disruptions.

In a statement they also said: “We are grateful to organisers of the Southampton Marathon for changing the date of the marathon to fit in with our work. The change in date for our work is unfortunate but unavoidable and is a risk in any large construction project.”

Another closure of the M27 between junction three and five is also planned between October 18 and 21.

Andrew Winson, Highways England project manager, said: “Replacing the Romsey Road bridge over the M27 is essential and we are working hard to complete the new bridge successfully and safely. We appreciate that the delay is frustrating but it is important that we do things right, and we are grateful to the local community for their patience while we complete the new bridge. It is important to note that the postponed work will not mean extra closures, they are just happening at different times.”