DRIVERS are set for a weekend of traffic misery as part of the M27 will be closed while five cruise ships will come into Southampton’s dock and the south will continue to bask in the heatwave.

Residents who are planning to spend the weekend in Southampton, the New Forest and the surrounding area are urged to defer their journey if they can or plan it in advance and ensure they have plenty of water in their cars as delays and “significant disruptions” are expected.

The news comes as the M27 will be closed between junction 3 (for Southampton City Centre) and junction 4 (for the M3) from 10pm on June 28 to 5am on July 1.

The closure is to allow a new motorway bridge to be lifted in to place over the M27 and will coincide with a number of events in Southampton and the nearby towns.

The new bridge will replace the existing Romsey Road Bridge.

Highways England, which is leading the £19 million scheme, said the work is essential.

But concerns have been raised over the impact the closure will have on businesses during what is expected to be one of the warmest weekend of the year.

As reported, the motorway was closed in September last year to allow for the bridge to be demolished.

At the time Southampton was brought to a standstill and westbound HGVs faced a 58-mile diversion.

This time Romsey will be one of the main diversion routes with light eastbound traffic heading towards the M3 set to be diverted past the Plaza Theatre and along the A3090.

Lorries will be diverted off at M27 junction 5, along the A27 to Chilworth roundabout, then along the A27 through North Baddesley, down the A3057, onto the M271 and re-joining the M27 at junction 3.

Travelling Eastbound, light vehicles on the M27 originating from the A31 heading to London/M3 will be diverted off at M27 junction 2 to use the A36 and the A3090 through Romsey towards M3 junction 11.

Meanwhile, HGVs on the M27 coming from the A31 heading for London will be diverted off the above route at Romsey, onto the A27 and the A33 to join the M3 northbound.

Highway bosses said drivers will not face a 58-mile diversion and said the new diversion routes are the “best possible arrangements” given the work that has to be carried out and the events that will take place this weekend.

But Mark Edgerley, inset, Romsey town centre manager, said the diversions will put people off and will have a negative impact on businesses in the market town.

“It is going to be fairly chaotic. They are putting the vehicles that use the M27 through Romsey. I have already seen quite a lot of comments on Facebook of people saying they are just going to stay at home,”he said.

Mr Edgerley said Romsey businesses have already been affected by roadworks as the Market Place is being revamped.

“We had road closures in the town which have definitively put people off. Businesses have not been doing very well over the last month, it has been really quite and this on top of that is really going to hurt some businesses,” he said.

A number of events including a school concert in the Abbey and events run by the Romsey Chamber Orchestra are set to be held in the town centre over the weekend.

Southampton is also expecting an influx of traffic this weekend with five cruise ships, including Independence of the Seas and Azura, set to dock on Saturday and a military march through the city to mark the Armed Force Day on Sunday.

Andy Shaw, operations manager at Bluestar, said the bus company will add extra buses and drivers to improve reliability.

“Although our buses don’t actually use the M27 or the bridge, the road closure is likely to cause delays across the area - for cars and buses alike.We urge people in the city to use public transport wherever possible to help ease congestion. We will be monitoring the situation closely and updating our social media feeds,”he added.

Civic chiefs in the city are urging those who are planning to travel by car to take extra water for their journey as “all routes are expected to be busy”.

Cllr Jacqui Rayment, cabinet member for transport and place at Southampton City Council, said: “We will be doing what we can in Southampton to minimise the impact of the Highways England closure of the M27 and to warn people of disruption. There will be no roadworks on the diversion route. There will also be five cruise ships docked in Southampton on Saturday and as such we expect significant delays to journey times in and around the city, so please do plan ahead. If you’re travelling to or around Southampton over that weekend make sure you allow extra time for your journey and consider public transport, walking or cycling where possible.”

South Western Railway said there will be no strikes on its network.

A spokesman for Network Rail also confirmed that there will not be any engineering work taking place in the Southampton area this weekend.

Highways England which is responsible for the scheme said the work has been carefully planned and agreed with local authorities and emergency services.

Andrew Winson, project manager for Highways England said: “We are reasonably confident we will reopen quite some time before the official reopening time on Monday at 5am. If it wasn’t absolutely essential to do this work we wouldn’t be doing it.This is a really important project”, he added.

As reported, the multi-million pound project was announced after highways bosses found the Romsey Road bridge had cracks in the concrete beams. The new bridge weighs 1,069 tonnes – as much as 15 space shuttles - and will be lifted into place using self-propelled modular transporters, which are remote-controlled, self-powered low-loader lorries. They will lift the bridge into place from the carriageway. The new bridge was built in a compound near to the motorway and will have a lifespan of 120 years.