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 Council are carrying out the works with their appointed contractor, supported by BCP 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 southbound from Blackwater towards Cooper Dean including a on slip and off s;ip into the Wessex Fields development site.

Why can’t the third lane be opened?

We have already introduced a lengthened southbound on slip from Blackwater Junction. We have seen that this has appeared to help the traffic joining from the B3073.

We are not able to increase the length of the slip road any longer, because the contraflow and Cooper Dean works require the road to be reduced to a single lane at both ends. If we were to open this part of the carriageway it would likely result in vehicles changing lanes and creating an additional merge situation which would cause further traffic delays.

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 third 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.

Will the Blackwater West Junction Improvement works result in further delays?

The construction of a new and more efficient Blackwater West Junction is due to start in Spring 2019 and continue through to completion in the following Spring. This phase will only have a minimal effect on road users travelling via the A338. It will involve some night time closures on the Blackwater West slip road to avoid impacting on traffic. We will also be using a temporary signal installation, similar to those used during the Blackwater East Junction works, to minimise the impact of the works on those travelling via the B3073.

When will the average speed cameras become operational?

The new average speed cameras on the A338 have been successfully installed and calibrated. However, due to ongoing issues with their permanent connection to the mains power supply, they are not currently operational. Road users will be informed prior to them going live and any changes will be properly signposted. Once live they will be managed by Dorset Police and support the 40mph limit in place for the duration of the works. Following completion of the road works, they will remain in place in support of the new 50mph speed limit. In the meantime, we encourage drivers to drive carefully and pay close attention to the signage, which is in place for the safety of our operatives working on the site.

Why is the contraflow prioritising northbound traffic?

The contraflow is necessary for us to carry out works on the northbound carriageway and mirror the works already completed on the southbound on slip and Blackwater Bridge. Priority is being given to northbound traffic flow because there is reduced capacity to manage congestion heading back into town and onto Bournemouth’s road network. 

Can a merge in turn sign be placed ahead of the lane closure?

All traffic signs are set out in accordance with the required national guidance. The signs currently in place provide motorists with sufficient advance warning to move into lane and not leave merging to the last minute which causes the traffic to stop/start and creates additional frustrations. We encourage drivers to be considerate of other road users, pay attention to the sign and merge when directed.

Why can’t more work be done overnight and at weekends?

The nature of the works and their proximity to neighbouring properties  prevent 24/7 working due to noise pollution as a result of the breaking up of concrete, the use of heavy equipment and the removal of spoil.

Weekend working is undertaken when practical, especially if due to ground conditions, adverse weather or other reasons, they have not been completed during the week.

Weekend working will be undertaken from the end of April and surfacing works will be undertaken during overnight road closures as this cannot be undertaken during the day when the traffic is live.

The works are running on schedule and are programmed to be completed in June.

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 since the start of the scheme. 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 decrease the time taken for completion, but day and night shifts have been implemented where appropriate. 

If the road could be closed in both directions for a number of months, these works could reasonably be completed within that time. However, the requirement is to keep three lanes of traffic running at all times during the day.

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 northbound via a contraflow and one lane running southbound.

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. 

Is the Council 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 currently in operation until the end of the scheme.

We are currently prioritising two lanes northbound via a contraflow, with one lane northbound operating on the southbound carriageway.

The Council is 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 the contractor 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.  

In addition, the traffic management arrangements have been extended towards Cooper Dean to enable widening works at the off slip and in the central reserve.

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.

When are the peak times?

Last year we collected typical peak times data on site. You may find this information helpful in planning ahead and making some adjustments to your travel plans.

During weekdays we saw typical morning peak delays from 7am to 10am and peak afternoon delays from 4.30pm to 6.30pm.

Typical delays on a Saturday are between 2pm and 6pm. These peak delays do not take into account unforeseen events on specific days.

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.

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 03 April 2019


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