ROMSEY motorists have been saved from travel chaos after a Hampshire motorway opened 36 hours ahead of schedule.

Romsey was one of the main diversion routes when the M27 closed between junction 3 and junction 4, to allow Highways England to replace Romsey Road Bridge.

Eastbound traffic heading towards the M3 was diverted past the Plaza Theatre and along the A3090, Winchester Road.

And westbound traffic from both the M27 and the M3 was diverted through the same route, in the direction of Ower.

Romsey’s town centre manager, Mark Edgerley, said: “It was fantastic news because Romsey town centre was completely dead on Saturday and none of the retailers could do anything.

“We are all very grateful that they managed to open the motorway early, because some local businesses said some of them shut early because there was no one around shopping.

“The M27 opening earlier gave traders an opportunity to get some of their business back on Sunday.”

Cllr Nick Adams-King, who represents Blackwater on Test Valley Borough Council, said: “I think it was brilliant they finished the work so early. Having driven around the villages where I live in Awbridge, I have never seen so many roads clogged up.

“They saved everyone from being delayed by doing the work so quickly, as lots of people were heading back from the beach and it would have been chaos.”

The mayor of Romsey, Cllr Janet Burnage, said: “It is great and we are delighted the M27 was open early and we appreciate all of the hard work the workforce put in.”

Highways England project manager, Andrew Winson, said: “The installation of the new Romsey Road bridge over the M27 was a great success. We re-opened 36 hours early, which is testament to the hard work of the team and all the contractors working on the installation.

“I would like to thank everyone involved, including road users, residents and businesses for their patience on what is the hottest day of the year so far.”

The M27 shut at 10pm on Friday to enable the new 1,069-tonne Romsey Road bridge to be lifted into place.

The closure of the motorway between junction 3 (for Southampton city centre) and junction 4 (for the M3) resulted in motorists having to take long diversions to complete journeys that would normally have taken only a fraction of the time.