THE A31 at Ringwood is set to be closed seven times in a three-day period as crews continue their efforts to demolish the existing bridges.

Following recent preparation work, crews have started to demolish the western section (closest to the Verwood junction) of the River Avon bridge as part of the major A31 road widening project.

To do this, the bridge deck must be cut into pieces and lifted it into tipper trucks. A large 750-tonne crane will be arriving on site on Monday May 16 to lift the old bridge beams.

Due to their size, National Highways says it will be necessary to stop traffic on the A31 on seven occasions between Tuesday May 17 and Friday 20, so the beams can be moved over the eastbound carriageway.

Bournemouth Echo: A31 roadworks at Ringwood. Picture: National HighwaysA31 roadworks at Ringwood. Picture: National Highways

It is unknown when specifically these closures will take place due to the possibility of “unforeseen problems”.

Traffic will be held using a rolling road block on the A31 at Ringwood on both carriageways, including the contraflow, between the Poulner junctions and Ashley Heath Roundabout.

A National Highways spokesperson told the Echo: “This operation, from a traffic point of view, will take up to 15 minutes for each beam lift and there will be seven beam lifts for the western half of the bridge over the Avon.

“The lifts will be undertaken outside of peak hours, however we cannot give precise times for these to take place as we may encounter unforeseen problems which would affect the times we have provided.

Bournemouth Echo: A31 bridge demolition animation. Image: National HighwaysA31 bridge demolition animation. Image: National Highways

“We need to prevent traffic being close to the works area for two main safety reasons. Firstly, we cannot allow the bridge beams to be carried over the top of traffic and people, this is a serious risk.

“Secondly, we need to avoid distracting people driving on the A31 past the works at this time. The activity could be potentially distracting and create an accident problem by distracting people driving through at the time of the works.

“This process is being employed to avoid the need for a full and total closure of the A31 whilst we undertake this work.”

Despite the assurance of off-peak closures, some residents have expressed concern that the lack of advanced warning could cause heavy delays.

On weekdays, A31 crews work from 7.30am until 8pm.