The ‘Missing Link’ has been a problem for Gloucestershire for more than 20 years.
Aside from the fact that it’s the only single carriageway section between the M4 and M5, the missing link has many other issues.
It is the worst congestion hotspot in the county and daily delays have a major impact on commuters and local businesses. There are frequent accidents – the road has seen more than 340 casualties in the past 15 years, some of them fatalities.
Air quality is poor and the unreliable journey times are preventing businesses from competing with neighbouring regions and inward investment into Gloucestershire is also hampered.
Daily, more than 34,000 vehicles use this road, 14% of which are HGVs, with traffic projections increasing year on year. We know the problem is only going to get worse.
Accidents that have taken place since 1998
There are a number of key issues with
the Missing Link
Safety concerns for road users
There have been 343 casualties on the section of Missing Link between 1998 and up to the middle of 2013. This includes eight fatalities and 39 serious injuries. The number of collisions on the Missing Link represent half of the collisions on the whole length of the A417/A419 trunk road within Gloucestershire, yet represent less than 20% of its length.
Major congestion and delays
The Air Balloon roundabout is a key junction on the A417/ A419 between Swindon and Gloucester and causes much of the congestion on the Missing Link. Traffic queues on all three arms of the roundabout during peak hours and journey time delays of 20 minutes and more on the A417 in both directions is not unusual. The two way annual average daily traffic on the A417 is currently 34,200 vehicles per day on Crickley Hill, and 28,700 vehicles per day on the link towards Swindon.
Significant financial costs to businesses
A number of surveys have been carried out to understand the impacts of the Missing Link on businesses. They concluded the Missing Link is the most detrimental congestion hotspot within the county. Freight operators said the single carriageway section of the A417 was the least reliable section of the Gloucestershire network in terms of journey reliability and congestion, impacting upon operating costs.
Air quality and noise problems
Cotswold District Council declared an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) in 2008 in respect of nitrogen dioxide at the Air Balloon roundabout junction. The elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution are due to traffic emissions at the Air Balloon junction caused by queuing traffic and a high level of slow moving HGVs.
The lack of a segregated trunk road network for the Missing Link results in the severance of local communities and national footpath trails. Local accesses on to the Missing Link currently face either severe congestion during peak hours, or fast moving traffic and difficulty of access in the off peak hours.
The emerging Draft Joint Core Strategy for Tewkesbury, Gloucester and Cheltenham alone proposes over 33,000 new homes for the period to 2031. This will put significant additional pressure on this already weak link on the route between the M5 and the M4.