WEST Berkshire motorists still reeling from a weekend of travel chaos have been hit by more bad news – a series of overnight and weekend closures on stretches of the A34 from the end of this month.
Parts of the road will be closed for two nights at the end of October and for two full weekends in November, with a 68-mile detour in place that will add a minimum of one hour to journey times.
It is a move likely to cause anger among road users in the district, who have had to contend with the recent closure of the Whitchurch Bridge and last weekend, lengthy delays caused by resurfacing works on the Sandleford Link.
The closures are to allow the refurbishment of the College Farm bridge, which carries the A34 over the local road at Beedon.
The move has prompted a backlash from those in surrounding villages, who fear that rat-running traffic will cause mayhem.
Earlier this year, East Ilsley residents complained of sleepless nights and lorries incorrectly navigating the one way system when overnight traffic was diverted through the village owing to roadworks on the northbound sliproad of the M4 at Chieveley.
East Ilsley resident and parish councillor Andrew Sharp said: “All the Highways Agency and West Berkshire Council care about is traffic flow. Once again the residents are coming a firm second to the A34.
“It is going to be a huge problem for people going north as they are going to have to go all the way out to Farnborough and back to Wantage.”
Clerk for Kintbury Parish Council, Chris Trigwell, admitted he shared those concerns. “It is undoubtedly going to have a dramatic affect on motorists and those in surrounding villages,” he said.
Travelling northbound from Newbury, motorists will be able to get as far as the M4 interchange at Chieveley before being sent eastbound on the M4 to Maidenhead, where they will join the M404 northbound, onto the A404 where they will eventually reach the M40. There will be the same reverse route in place for southbound journeys, while villages including Chieveley and Beedon will be able to be accessed via Graces Lane and Oxford Road.
A secondary route, for motorway restricted vehicles such as learner drivers, buses and cyclists,will have to follow a signed route between Speen and Milton (A4130), via Hungerford and Wantage (A338).
The refurbishment work will commence on Monday October 28, from 10pm to 6am, with a full overnight closure of the A34 northbound carriageway from Junction 13 of the M4.
Tuesday October 29 (10pm to 6am) will then see a full overnight closure of the A34 southbound carriageway between the A4130 Milton Interchange and Junction 13 of the M4.
From Friday, November 15 (10pm) to Monday November 18 (6am) a full weekend closure of the A34 southbound carriageway from the A4130 Milton Interchange to Junction 13 of the M4 will be in place.
There will be another full weekend closure of the A34 northbound carriageway from M4 Junction 13 from Friday November 22 (10pm) to Monday November 25 (6am).
From October 29 to November 14, a 24-hour narrow lane running and a temporary 50 mile per hour speed restriction will be in place, along with nightly lane closures.
West Berkshire Council executive for transport policy and Chieveley district councillor Hilary Cole said: “It is going to cause a lot of inconvenience to motorists and local people but we have little choice other than to suffer the inconvenience, accept it and bear with it.”
If work is unable to proceed on the selected dates owing to poor weather, the closures will be rescheduled for January/February 2014 so as not to clash with local authority Christmas embargos.
As there is a weight limit of 7.5 tonnes on the local road between Chieveley and Beedon which is unsuitable for heavy goods vehicles, all HGVs have been instructed to follow the official signed diversion route.