Multi-million-pound scheme to updated missing A417 link in Gloucestershire approved

A417 Missing Link road
An artist’s impression of the scheme shows plans for a 37m-wide crossing, connecting habitats and allowing users of the Gloucestershire Way to cross the improved A417 safely Credit: National Highways

The green light has been given to improve a stretch of road in Gloucestershire known as the 'Missing Link'.

The major road upgrade to the A417 between Gloucester and Swindon will "help to boost the regional economy and transform journeys for millions of people," according to National Highways.

The current single-lane carriageway of the A417 between the Brockworth bypass and Cowley roundabout is a notorious traffic hotspot - causing drivers to use surrounding roads not built for heavy congestion.

Transport Minister Huw Merriman has given the long-awaited decision for the scheme that will "deliver 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.

Caption: An artist’s impression of the scheme shows plans for Gloucestershire Way crossing Credit: National Highways

On an average day, the road carries approximately 40,000 vehicles and congestion can be frequent and unpredictable, so some motorists divert onto local roads to avoid tailbacks.

This causes difficulties for neighbouring communities as these roads were not built to accommodate so much traffic.

National Highways’ chief executive Nick Harris said: “We’re delighted with the Minister’s decision. This means we can get going with this major upgrade, which is vital for local communities and the regional South West economy.

“We would like to thank everyone who has worked with us to help shape this vital scheme and provided valuable feedback. We will continue to work closely with local communities as we move towards the start of construction in 2023, making sure everyone is kept informed and disruption is kept to a minimum.

“This is a significant investment of £460m in our road network that will improve road safety, reduce traffic congestion and improve connectivity for road users and local communities.

“We are designing the scheme to fit sympathetically within the landscape, providing the opportunity to link habitats and support environmental sustainability, while unlocking economic growth in Gloucestershire and beyond.” 

The A417/A419 provides an important route between Gloucester and Swindon that helps connect the Midlands/North to the South of England. It's an alternative to the M5/M4 route via Bristol.   

The scheme will deliver a safe and resilient free-flowing road while conserving and enhancing the special character of the Cotswolds AONB Credit: National Highways

Preparatory work on the project can begin early next year with construction due to begin later in 2023.

Following the green light, National Highways’ and contractor Kier will be out and about in a mobile exhibition van to give people an update on the project and answer any questions.

The aim is to improve this section of the A417 with a scheme that includes:  

  • 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 would be included near Cowley, replacing the existing Cowley roundabout  

  • the existing A417 between the Air Balloon roundabout and the Cowley roundabout would be repurposed. We would convert 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

Highways add that they will be creating new habitats and habitat connections for native wildlife including bats, bees, badgers and more to flourish.