THE £244m scheme to convert 15 miles of the M27 into four lanes has been delayed.
Highways England has confirmed that the three-year project to alter the road from junction 4 at the M3 interchange to junction 11 at Fareham into four lanes may not start work until 2019.
The M27 upgrade is desperately needed to relieve the terrible congestion and stop the daily disruption so many people have to put up withSuella Fernandes, Fareham MP
It had been earmarked for a start date of next March, the works have been handed a six to nine-month delay, with September being the earliest work could start.
The government’s highways arm said the forthcoming works had to be delayed to avoid crippling traffic congestion in the area with a number of other road schemes planned.
These include the £130m improvements between junction 5 at Southampton Airport to junction 8 at Hamble, and the planned works at Junction 9 of the M3 for Winchester.
Leader of Fareham Borough Council, Councillor Sean Woodward, welcomed the news. He said the delay was necessary to ensure the works synced up with the planned £60m upgrade to junction 10 to accommodate the planned town of Welborne.
‘I welcome this delay as I want to make sure that the planned improvements to junction 10 will not be affected by the scheme,’ he said.
‘The works simply have to tie in together or it will be a big waste of public money if the works have to then be readjusted to allow the junction improvements.’
The hope for the smart motorway scheme is that it will ease congestion on key bottlenecks along the road, notably from junction 8 to Whiteley at junction 9.
Proposals to turn junction 10 into an all-access carriageway have stagnated in recent years given the delays in building Welborne.
However, the development has recently moved forward after the lead developer acquired a large majority of the land needed to build the homes.
Welborne has yet to be approved by the borough council and its immediate fate is tied to the junction 10 works – which recently ballooned in cost to £60m.
Cllr Woodward added: ‘When the smart motorway works were due to start in March, the council would have just been making a decision on Welborne.
‘It would not have made sense to go ahead with the project without guaranteeing Junction 10 works were correctly synced up.’
Suella Fernandes, Fareham MP, said: ‘I understand local frustration about this delay. The M27 upgrade is desperately needed to relieve the terrible congestion and stop the daily disruption so many people have to put up with. I am talking to ministers about finding a way forward.’
The smart motorway scheme has previously come under criticism from Portsmouth City Council’s leader Councillor Donna Jones, who said the scheme should be extended all the way to junction 12.
She said: ‘The total lack of consultation on the M27 smart motorway scheme has been a failing, firstly on the part of the Highways Agency and then when the organisation was reformed into Highways England.
‘The delay is deeply disappointing as it means more residents will be blighted by one of the slowest bits of motorway in the south of England.
‘I hope this gives the opportunity to rethink the scheme and ensure that the road runs to Portsmouth and doesn’t stop at Fareham.
‘The businesses and citizens of Portsmouth deserve to have the same level of infrastructure investment as the rest of the south coast.
‘Anything less just is not good enough.’