ROMSEY motorists are being told to prepare for traffic "chaos" when a Hampshire motorway shuts this weekend.

Drivers will be told to take a 55-mile detour when the M27 closes to enable engineers to complete the £19m Romsey Road bridge replacement project.

Eastbound traffic will have to leave the M27 at Ower and go through Romsey before joining the M3 near Winchester.

The third and final closure will take place between 10pm on Friday, January 31 until 5am on Monday, February 3.

Motorists heading west on the M27 will also have to join the M3 and travel via Winchester, Andover and Salisbury before finally rejoining the motorway at Ower.

Romsey town centre manager, Mark Edgerley, said: "I have said to residents it is unfortunate as it will cause chaos a lot of inconvenience, but it is essential work that needs to be done to finish the bridge, so it is unavoidable.

"You cannot take a bridge down over a motorway and leave the motorway open.

"It is worth saying the information I have got from the contractors is that it would definitely be closed all weekend, because this time there is a lot more work to be done."

He added: "The diversion signs are already up and there are also more signs this time to try and persuade large lorries to avoid going up by the bridge."

Cllr Nick Adams-King, who represents Blackwater on the borough council, said: "Hampshire County Council have put out all of their routes and the ways they are suggesting are realistic in terms of the flow of traffic that will happen around Romsey.

"However, they are still asking people to go up the M3, via Andover and Salisbury, if they are travelling westbound, which is not realistic."

He added: "My advice to people would be that they should plan ahead and try to avoid travelling that week, because it has been particularly busy along all the main routes in town.

"If people want to travel it maybe worth waiting until later in the day."

This comes after residents hit out at Highways England after it was announced work on the M27 was delayed due to "supply chain issues", according to the company.

Work on the bridge was due to take place from January 10 until January 13 before Highways England announced the date would be pushed back.

Highways England has been contacted for comment.