VILLAGES around the A420 are expecting delays, gridlock, speeding, collisions and even injuries when Oxfordshire County Council closes the A420 for seven weeks in July.
It plans to shut both lanes from July 21, between the Watchfield Roundabout and the Townsend Road junction to Shrivenham and Bourton, in order to carry out essential roadworks.
That will leave commuters in and out of Swindon with little choice but to overrun the country lanes that link up the rural communities north and south of the A420.
Residents in Shrivenham have already commissioned an independent transport study, which estimated between 17,000 and 20,000 traffic movements a day along the main road.
Shrivenham is likely to be the worst affected village, with preliminary plans in place for traffic to be diverted through the heart of the community before it returns to the A420.
Sarah Day, chair of Shrivenham Parish Council, said: “The problem that we have is with the HGVs. Oxfordshire is saying it will put a seven-and-a-half-tonne weight restriction on the diversion.
“But the question is: who’s going to police it? They suggested trading standards, but I can’t see them standing out there, on the road, 24 hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, for seven weeks.
“We know the road needs doing, but what we are asking for is, at the very least, they put in a 20-miles-per-hour speed limit and that they police the HGVs.
“Those vehicles inevitably sat in the queues in the villages are also going to find opportunities to create their own diversions with their sat-navs and go off down side roads.
“A lot of the houses on those roads don’t even have footpaths – we are worried somebody’s going to get hurt.”
Ms Day also said Oxfordshire County Council was weighing up a one-way system, with westbound traffic travelling via Faringdon Road in Watchfield and eastbound traffic using Longcot Road before linking up with the A420 via Majors Road.
Villages south-west of Shrivenham are also bracing themselves for any knock-on effect which may stem from collisions or disruptions on the official diversion route.
Bishopstone, Hinton Parva and Wanborough are all communities which might face an influx of traffic looking to get in and out of Swindon via the Commonhead roundabout.
Ian Thompson, acting chair of Bishopstone Parish Council, said: “We have huge concerns. Ours is the only alternative road if Shrivenham becomes gridlocked.
“We knew it was going to happen, we just assumed it was a fait accompli. “There is going to be a huge amount of rat running.
“I would certainly support any calls for a tighter speed restriction through Shrivenham and the surrounding villages.
“I don’t even think most people have cottoned on to what’s actually happening yet – this is a major closure.
“People will find rat runs. It’s an accident waiting to happen.”
On its website, Oxfordshire County Council accepts disruption will happen, but the resurfacing will mean no further reconstruction should be needed for years to come.