A number of economic studies have been carried out over the past four years to identify the problems caused by the Missing Link to local businesses and the effects on economic growth.

Stage 1 Study

Delivering a Sustainable Transport Strategy (DaSTS)
Study South West Regional Assembly • June 2009

This study looked at the connectivity of the nine main growth areas across the South West Region.

Cheltenham/Gloucester and Swindon, located at each end of the A417/A419 corridor, are two of these growth areas.

It focussed on the importance of the transport system in supporting the Regional Economic Strategy.

As far as the A417 is concerned, journey time unreliability was sited as preventing just in time meaning businesses cannot rely on their stock turning up when they need it. This issue also prevents Gloucestershire businesses from competing with Thames Valley businesses because of the connectivity issues.

Key conclusions

Within the south west region, Swindon is rated third and Cheltenham/Gloucester fourth in the table indicating the importance of transport to the local economy, implying that there is a strategic importance for the A417/A419 corridor to the local economy.

The Department for Transport indicator on journey time reliability identified the A417/ A419 corridor between Swindon and Brockworth as having the worst average vehicle delay of all strategic routes in the South West and a higher delay than the national average.

Addressing issues on the A417/A419 corridor was seen to be of regional importance in economic terms.

A 2009 study of connectivity problems in the south west concluded the Gloucester/Cheltenham to Swindon corridor was of relatively high economic importance in terms of the regional economy.

Cheltenham / Gloucester economy rated fourth in South West region

Phase 1 Report

Cheltenham and Gloucester Connectivity Study
Atkins Transport Planning and Management • May 2010

This study focussed on connectivity issues relating to Cheltenham and Gloucester, including the A417/A419 to Swindon corridor. The study area was focussed on Cheltenham and Gloucester and the area of Tewkesbury that lies between the two communities.

Key conclusions

Traffic modelling shows that with forecast growth, the Air Balloon roundabout will be operating more than 30% over capacity by 2026.

A business survey
(201 businesses) indicated that:

  • The A417/A419 corridor is an important transport corridor for 80% of respondents
  • The A417 Air Balloon roundabout was identified as a particular congestion hotspot

Freight operators and organisations identified the single carriageway section of the A417 as the least reliable section of the Gloucestershire network in terms of journey reliability and congestion, impacting upon operating costs.

The A417/A436 roundabout at the Air Balloon was also identified by operators as being particularly dangerous, whilst the approach on Crickley Hill was felt to be a particular problem during adverse weather conditions in winter.

Freight operators also pointed out that when problems occur on the Missing Link – records show on average major incidents occur around six times each month – traffic, including lorries, diverts onto local, often unsuitable, roads to bypass the problem, causing environmental and safety problems.

They also stated that when breakdowns occur, the steep gradients and congestion makes recovery slow and complicated, causing further disruption.

They supported the Brown Route as the best way to tackle the problems, but recognised it is a long term scheme due to the high cost involved.

Air Balloon roundabout forecasted to be running 30% over capacity by 2026

Connectivity Research in Gloucestershire 2013

Nearly 300 businesses were surveyed in 2013 to identify the economic impacts of deficits in the Strategic Road Network on Gloucestershire businesses and beyond. Businesses in Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire, and Worcestershire were invited to take part.

Overwhelmingly the Missing Link was noted as an issue by the majority of businesses. This route provides a critical link from businesses operating in the Swindon area to the M5 and destinations further north, and vice versa.

In addition the current congestion issues at this location were noted as a problem for road access between Gloucestershire and London, which negatively impacts on inward investment into our county.

Congestion on the Missing Link was regularly noted as a key issue not only for business operation but also for their staff commuting. A number of consultees said

 the problems were not just congestion and delays, but also the lack of reliability of journey times. Delays at this location impacted on logistics and others relying on delivering goods to customers further north along the M5 corridor and beyond.

68% of respondents said that the Missing Link was ‘significant or very significant’ to the operation of their business

70% of respondents said that the Missing Link congestion had a negative impact on their business 

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