National Highways welcomes Secretary of State on site visit to celebrate next phase of major A417 scheme

As National Highways enters the next phase of construction on one of Gloucestershire’s busiest links – the Secretary of State for Transport Mark Harper was welcomed onto site last week, for a tour of the scheme and to celebrate progress so far.

The landscape-led scheme is on its way to delivering a safe and resilient free-flowing road while conserving and enhancing the special character of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The scheme will improve the connection between two dual carriageway sections of the A417 at Brockworth and Cowley, and links between the M4 and M5.

Upgrading this section of the A417 to dual carriageway, in a way that is sensitive to the surrounding Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, will help unlock Gloucestershire’s potential for growth, support regional plans for more homes and jobs and improve life in local communities.

Having progressed preliminary construction works, including archaeology and biodiversity enhancements, the scheme will now look to the next stage of enabling works, that will see the A417 at Crickley Hill widened and a new site access works on the A436.

Once completed, the scheme will then move to main construction in early 2024, which will see a new section of road built away from the current road, and earthworks at Ullenwood and Shab Hill junctions.

National Highways’ Chief Executive Nick Harris said: “The A417 Missing Link is one of the busiest roads in the country and experiences congestion and delays on a regular basis.

“This major upgrade, which is vital for local communities and the regional South West economy, is a significant investment of £460m in our road network that will improve safety, reduce traffic congestion and improve connectivity for road users and local communities.

“It was a pleasure to welcome the Secretary of State to site so that he could see the great work we’re doing to improve this stretch of road as it moves to its next stage.

“I’m sure having seen the works first-hand, he shares my confidence in the benefits this improvement is bringing to people and businesses.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “After many years of campaigning by Gloucestershire MPs, it is fantastic to see work on the A417 progressing, backed by significant Government funding.

“This road is currently one of the most congested across Gloucestershire, and it was great to see first-hand how this Government’s investment will directly benefit the region – this project will reduce congestion, improve safety and have significant economic benefits, all while conserving the surrounding landscape.

“We have in the last month published our long-term plan to back drivers and put the brakes on anti-car measures – the Government getting on with road schemes like the A417 is one of the many long-term decisions we are taking to keep this country moving.”

On an average day, this section of the A417 carries approximately 40,000 vehicles. Congestion can be frequent and unpredictable, and with motorists diverting onto local roads to avoid tailbacks, this causes difficulties for neighbouring communities.

National Highways’ A417 Missing Link scheme includes:  

  • 3.4 miles of new dual carriageway connecting the existing A417 Brockworth bypass with the existing A417 dual carriageway south of Cowley; 
  • the section to the west of the existing Air Balloon roundabout would follow the existing A417 corridor. However, the section to the south and east of the Air Balloon roundabout would be offline, away from the existing road corridor;  
  • a new junction at Shab Hill, providing a link from the A417 to the A436 towards Oxford and into Birdlip;
  • a new junction near Cowley, replacing the existing Cowley roundabout;  
  • the existing A417 between the Air Balloon roundabout and the Cowley roundabout would be repurposed, converting some lengths of this existing road into a route for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, while retaining other sections to maintain local access for residents.

Supporting the landscape vision of the scheme, National Highways will also continue to work with partners to maximise environmental benefits, and the company’s plans include creating new habitats and habitat connections for native wildlife species, such as birds, bats, bees, and badgers.

As part of the major road upgrade, other biodiversity boosts will include:

  • 5 miles of new drystone walls
  • 5.6 miles hedgerow
  • 25ha native woodland
  • 4.3ha scrub
  • 7.6ha native grassland
  • 75ha limestone grassland

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