A338 FAQs

Frequently asked questions 

Information on works being undertaken as part of the BIG programme.

For day to day traffic information visit the blog.

What is the Bournemouth International Growth Programme?


Bournemouth International Growth (BIG) Programme is a major economic growth plan focused on employment and development around Bournemouth Airport. Find out more.

Who is carrying out the work?

Dorset County Council are carrying out the works with their appointed contractor, supported by Bournemouth Borough Council.

What BIG Programme schemes can we expect on the A338?

The A338 improvements consist of two elements:

  • improvements to the Blackwater Junction
  • widening (a third lane) to the A338 Wessex Way from Blackwater towards Cooper Dean

Why wasn’t this done at the same time as work carried out on the Spur Road in 2015?

This is a very different scheme involving adding a third south bound lane towards Cooper Dean. This lane will allow extra time for traffic merging onto the A338 at Blackwater Junction. The previous scheme was a maintenance scheme and was north of Blackwater, whilst these works are south of Blackwater. If we had undertaken the works at the same time, it would have significantly increased the time taken, added to disruption and works would not have completed by the summer.

During these nine months, why can't some of these works be carried out at night leaving the carriageway open during the day?

The road is open during the day (unless advertised) with two narrowed lanes running north and one lane running south.

The contractor is working nights - with two shifts - a day and a night shift running for parts of the schedule.

Night works under full closure are also programmed in. 

Are Dorset planning to amend how the work is carried out following the congestion caused at the start of the works?

A lane closure will be in place until approximately June 2019. A contraflow is not planned until early Spring 2019.

The road is open during the day (unless advertised) with two narrowed lanes running north and one lane running south.

Dorset are continuing to review all options to minimise the impact of the works on motorists. The works are continually monitored on site by a traffic management contractor.

Why is there a need to close such a large section of the lane, when the work isn’t being undertaken in the carriageway?

If it seems like a long stretch is closed, it's because Dorset County Council is following the required regulations from the Department for Transport for traffic management during roadworks. This is to ensure the safety of everyone on the road - both workers and drivers.  

Will this work have a major impact on the business economy of the town?

We are in contact with and listening to businesses.

Following requests from various stakeholders and retailers to consider the Christmas Trade, it was agreed that there would be a break in the schedule over the Christmas period.

Poor transport links are Dorset's number one impediment to business growth. The current works on the A338 at the Blackwater Junction, combined with other BIG Programme road infrastructure schemes, are addressing this very issue.

The BIG Programme will bring significant long term economic benefits to Dorset - releasing new employment land, creating up to 10,000 new jobs, generating up to £500 million of GVA.  

Given the conurbation had existing traffic problems, where do the council suggest drivers go to avoid these issues?

We are aware these works will cause some delays and would advise motorists to allow extra time for their journeys or find an alternative route. Motorists can sign up to receive regular updates via the A338 travel blog.

Motorists may wish to use alternative routes that best fit their needs or avoid the peak times of the day. The works were programmed to avoid the busy summer season.

We appreciate that not everyone can adapt their plans by changing their route or adjusting their journey departure time, but if some travellers are able to, it will make a difference to peak time delays. 

We apologise for the delays that are being experienced.

Why can’t a 2nd southbound lane be opened at peak times to shorten the queues?

Now that the steel barriers are in we’re unable to have two lanes open southbound – there isn’t room for the work to be carried out safely without them and they can’t be removed and reinstated twice a day for peak traffic.

We know that roadworks are frustrating and we are very sorry for the inconvenience they cause. We are looking to the future and building extra capacity with a third lane southbound from Blackwater towards Cooper Dean. Without a 3rd lane this level of traffic could become the norm. Traffic modelling suggests that traffic flows will grow by up to 20% over the next 12 years.

Why are the works taking nine months when the entire Spur Road rebuild took a similar length of time?

The two schemes are very different. The A338 Major Maintenance scheme consisted predominantly of rebuilding the existing carriageway. These current works are related to the A338 Blackwater Junction improvement scheme and A338 widening scheme which involve the construction of a new additional lane requiring widening into the central reservation and verge.  This will also entail the construction of retaining structures and pier protection works to both the River Stour bridge and B3073 overbridge.

What are you doing to provide for emergency vehicle access? 

The lane restrictions allow sufficient room for emergency vehicles to get through. Like all other roads, motorists are required to pull over as far as they can as soon as they're alerted by the lights and sirens of an emergency vehicle.

Why do there seem to be so few workers at certain times of the day?

At the start there were fewer workers on site, but this has significantly increased over the last 6 weeks. The nature of the works have been complex and required the joining of the gap between the two bridges over the River Stour that carry the northbound and southbound carriageways. Due to the constraints of the space available within the central reserve, a sufficient safety zone has to be provided to protect the work force from operating machinery, removal of materials via large vehicles and the live adjacent carriageways. The tasks have also run consecutively, so more resource would not increase the time taken for completion, but day and night shifts have been implemented where appropriate. From mid-November, Phase 2 will commence adjacent to the carriageway within the verge which enables more opportunity for an increased work force.

Can the slip road onto the A338 from Blackwater Junction be fully closed or traffic lights put in at this location to stop traffic pushing in and creating bigger queues on the A338?

The slip road onto the A338 from Blackwater Junction carries a third of the vehicles on the stretch between Blackwater and Cooper Dean. To close this slip would result in a significant detrimental impact across the wider network, that is already congested and close to capacity in places. The traffic would have to divert either through Christchurch and then Tuckton or Iford and Castle Lane in the East and would then add to the traffic at Parley and Ferndown to the West. Whilst the queues are longer on the A338 southbound as a result, there are no junctions between Ashley Heath and Blackwater that are adversely affected.Traffic lights would create longer queues at Blackwater Junction and would be likely to block the entire junction in both directions. This will have a further effect of increasing the queues on the A338 off-slip to Blackwater Junction in the northbound direction, as well as significantly increasing the queues from the Hurn area and beyond on the approach to Blackwater Junction.
We're asking road users to be considerate and merge in turn when necessary.

How can I tell what the current road situation is to help me plan my journey?

Travel Dorset have a live map showing current road conditions. If you are able to use this to be flexible with your journey, bookmark the map for reference.



The current roadworks are part of the £20 million Bournemouth International Growth Programme to improve the A338 and B3073 corridors - aimed at facilitating better access into and around Bournemouth Airport as well as improving journey times and unlocking employment land at Aviation Business Park and at Wessex Fields.

Dorset is continuing to review all options to minimise the impact of the works on motorists. We apologise for any inconvenience caused during this time and thank motorists for their patience.

FAQs last updated 9 November 2018