On behalf of Dorset County Council, I felt I must write to express my regret and concern to your readers, at the delays and frustration associated with the start of the A338 construction scheme.

To give this road scheme some context, the work currently being done on the A338 forms part of the Bournemouth International Growth (BIG) Programme, worth a total of £45.2m. Over £20m of that investment is helping fund a series of highway improvements along the A338 and B3073 corridors, aimed at facilitating better access into and around Bournemouth Airport as well as unlocking employment land at Aviation Business Park and at Wessex Fields.

If we do not carry out this improvement work, then growth and jobs would be constrained, and the current road network could become a blocker to investment and prosperity in the area.

I wish to emphasise that this project is a joint Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Bournemouth Borough Council and Dorset County Council project. The LEP is funding it, while Bournemouth Borough Council is leading this project, with Dorset County Council and Hanson Contracting employed to carry out the construction. Bournemouth Borough Council as the project lead, is managing the communications and is accountable to the LEP for the project’s delivery.

The same design and construction team from Dorset County Council that successfully managed the A338 Major Maintenance scheme north of Blackwater junction in 2016/17 is the same team delivering this project ‘on the ground’. This team is well-versed with the local traffic network and the disruption this type of work can bring to the surrounding community.

Many options were considered for the traffic management necessary for these works, including all those that have been suggested recently. Some of which will be employed where appropriate as the scheme progresses, such as night time work. However, we must strike a balance between what is safely possible to work on, while keeping disruption to a minimum.

You will be aware that officers and elected Members from Dorset County Council and Bournemouth Borough Council met on Tuesday to discuss emerging issues, review our approach and any further measures that could be put in place. Once explained in full, Members understood that any alternative options to the current construction programme would not address the traffic flow issues. These measures are explained in full in our response letter to Conor Burns MP, which we copied to you on Tuesday.

Further answers to FAQs can be found at www.A338.info and up to date live travel information is shared via the Travel Dorset twitter feed, which together with the A338 Blog, we would encourage people affected by these roadworks to follow. These channels of communication will be updated as the traffic management phases change, or issues emerge which we need to communicate quickly and consistently to the public.

We have seen promising results in a reduction in the waiting times on the route which were reduced from 90 minutes on Monday 3 September to just 20 minutes on Monday 10 September. This gives us cause for optimism that while delays are still being encountered, they are decreasing. We need to be realistic though that these may not reduce much further. The only other option would be to not continue with the works, but that will just store up problems for the future.

Unfortunately, the traffic flows on the A338 are even higher south of Blackwater than to the north. Keeping two lanes free northbound, wherever possible, has been highlighted as a key objective to reduce the potential for traffic to back up towards Cooper Dean roundabout.

The current traffic management phase of works is due to finish on 16 September with the next phase of work starting on 1 October for approximately six weeks. The current 24/7 lane closure is being taken off tonight (14th September) but there will be off-peak lane closures over the next two weeks.

I would like to reassure your readers that there is a genuine commitment from all the partners to get things right for residents and businesses, and to improve the communications from this point onwards.

To assist us with getting information out to your readers, we would like to invite you to join us for a briefing on site at the end of September, prior to the next phase of work starting.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Daryl Turner

Dorset County Council’s Cabinet Member for the Natural and Built Environment