The A31 is a major East - West through route in the south of England, running from Guildford in the East to Bere Regis in the West.
|To:||Bere Regis (SY849953)|
|Length:||86.8 miles (139.7 km)|
|Meets:||M3, M27, A3, A32, A35|
|Old route now:||A3090|
|Route outline (key)|
Section 1: Guildford – Winchester
The eastern section of the A31 runs from the centre of Guildford to Junction 10 of the M3. Starting at the A322 in the centre of Guildford the A31 climbs up towards the Hog’s Back going over the A3 before settling down on the 60 MPH Hog’s Back. Coming off the Hog’s Back you approach the Runfold Interchange with the A331, after which the left lane filters around the Shepherd and Flock roundabout onto the Farnham By-Pass. Crossing the traffic light controlled Hinckley’s corner at Farnham Railway Station, the A31 continues under the A287 (the eastbound carriageway reduces to one lane under the bridge), after another traffic light controlled junction a short section brings the Coxbridge Roundabout, where the A325 crosses on its route from Farnham to the A3 at Longmoor.
Following the Coxbridge roundabout the A31 settles down to for a stretch as it bypasses Bentley, and then Alton on dual carriageway, with some of the second lane hatched out near at grade junctions. At the second Alton roundabout the A32 heads off to Fareham shortly after which the A31 reduces to 30MPH and single carriageway through Four Marks and Ropley (although there is a short stretch of dual carriageway between Four Marks and Ropley). The roundabout after Ropley marks the start of the Alresford bypass which concludes at the next roundabout, where a left lane filter takes the A31 back onto dual carriageway towards Winchester.
The next roundabout the old A31 continues into Winchester, however, the current A31 diverts south towards the M3 and a junction with the A272 towards Petersfield. The next roundabout the A31 continues towards the southbound M3, towards Southampton and the M27. The A272 heads north towards junction 9 and the northbound M3 and the A34. At the M3 the current A31 breaks until it reappears at a junction off the A36 near Ower.
The A31 then runs parallel to, and just south of, the M27 through the village of Cadnam until it collects the westbound M27 traffic at the end of the motorway at Cadnam.
Section 2: Cadnam - Bere Regis
The M27 ends at Cadnam and the road continues as the A31 heading towards Ringwood. During the late forties, there was heated debate with the Verderers, fierce protectors of the New Forest, about providing a much needed upgrade to either the A31 or A35 through the New Forest, thus providing a proper link along the south coast. Eventually, in the 1950s, the A31 was controversially selected to be upgraded and was progressively upgraded over the next 20 years.
The section of road between Cadnam and Stoney Cross (around 2 miles) was first to be dualled in the mid-1960s. The westbound carriageway of this section is the original road, as shown by the narrow lanes and tight bend. At Rufus Stone, there is also an at grade junction which usually has long tailbacks as people try to cross the eastbound carriageway.
Between Stoney Cross and the edge of the New Forest west of Picket Post, most of the road was upgraded in sections between 1966 and 1972, but with the building the M27, there was some impetuous to get the job finished. The last section to be dualled, immediately west of Stoney Cross, was finished in 1975, along with the removal of the at-grade junction at Bratley, which required the rebuilding of the recently built dual carriageway.
At Picket Post, there is a grade-separated junction with the Burley road. When the A31 was dualled, this junction was left as a flat junction and became an accident blackspot, so it was grade-separated in 1991.
After the New Forest, the road descends Poulner Hill into Ringwood. The A31 passes through Ringwood to the north of the town centre and remained as a single carriageway road until the Ringwood bypass was opened in 1977. This was a partially online and offline upgrade which was actually squeezed through a residential part of Ringwood, as shown by the number of retaining walls.
This section of road also includes a grade-separated junction with the northern section of the A338, but due to the proximity of the parish church, the sliproad from the A338 to the A31 westbound is very short, and a known accident blackspot. The A338 used go through the centre of Ringwood, but in the late 1960s, the dual carriageway A338 "Bournemouth Spur Road" was built on a new alignment to the west of the river Avon, joining the A31 at a large roundabout at Ashley. The original road renumbered as the B3347. This means the A338 multiplexes for around 1.5 miles along the A31. This section of the A31 was dualled when the new A338 was built.
The roundabout for the A338 "Bournemouth Spur Road" was left as the first roundabout on the route from London and as such, became a congestion hotspot. In the 1990s, it was decided to grade separate the junction in the late 1990s. An underpass was built and the A31/A338 multiplex was widened to 4 lanes between the two A338 junctions. Unfortunately, whilst it is 4 lanes throughout on the eastbound carriageway, the westbound section was left as 2 lanes past the parish church, leaving the awkward A338 sliproad. Going westbound, the A31 suddenly picks up 2 extra lanes around half a mile after the church.
After the A338 southbound junction, the A31 carries on through St. Leonards and St. Ives to Tricketts Cross outside Ferndown, where the A348 heads south-westwards through Ferndown to Bournemouth. This section of road was progressively dualled in the 1960s and includes a rather odd roundabout with no other roads coming off it, although there is a junction with a local road a hundred yards away, so perhaps the local road was going to be realigned.
At Tricketts Cross, the A31 used carry on as a single carriageway road, through the northern edge of Ferndown and the village of Stapehill, but this section of road was bypassed with the Ferndown bypass in 1986. This started half a mile east of the A31/A348 roundabout on a new roundabout and headed northwards in a loop around Ferndown, before rejoining the original A31 at Canford Bottom. The first half of this road is dual carriageway, but at a roundabout at Ameysford, the road reverts to single-carriageway and you get long tailbacks as a result. The original intention was that a new dual carriageway called the "Ferndown Relief Road" would head southwards from this roundabout and join the A3049 at the northern edge of Poole, providing a direct route into Poole. This plan was was delayed in the late 1980s, proposed again in the mid-1990s as the "Poole Link Road" (with a couple of different routes), and then cancelled entirely by the Labour Government in 1997.
At Canford Bottom, the A31 used to go through the centre of Wimborne Minster and was a very congested route. In 1981, the single-carriageway Wimborne Bypass was opened, taking the A31 south of Wimborne and through the northern edge of Merley. Halfway along is a junction with the A349 and then a junction with the B3073 at Lake Gates, which is where we rejoin the original A31. After a couple of miles, the A31 crosses the A350 at a large Roundabout.
The route from Wimborne to Bere Regis has had minor improvements and widenings over the years, but is single carriageway throughout and in summer months very busy. At Bere Regis, the road used to meet the A35 at a very busy traffic light junction in the middle of the town. In 1982, the A35 Bere Regis bypass was built around the north of the town and the A31 terminates on a roundabout on this bypass.
A comprehensive history of the A31 can be found on the A31/History page.