Swindon businesses are being urged to support a campaign for Government funding to end the misery on the ‘missing link’ of the A417 north of the town.
The trunk road, which links the M4 at Swindon with the M5 at Gloucester, is a vital route for local firms doing business in Gloucestershire, the Midlands and North West.
Most of the heavily-used road has been improved and upgraded to dual carriageway in a series of major works over the past two decades.
But a 5km stretch remains as single carriageway, causing major bottlenecks at peak periods. This section of road has the worst average vehicle delay of all strategic routes in the South West and has become a source of misery for many Swindon firms and their staff.
The Government will set out its future road schemes at the end of March and Gloucestershire County Council is spearheading a campaign to add the solution to the missing link solution – the so-called A417 loop – added to the list.
The council wants businesses to get behind the campaign and support the loop to convince the Government to stump up the £250m needed to build it.
The council argues that, once this window of opportunity closes, it is unlikely Government funding will be available for major schemes such as this one for many years.
Gloucestershire County Council leader Mark Hawthorne said: “This is our one chance to show the Government how important this scheme is to our county.
“For more than 20 years people have talked about a possible solution but it’s only ever been talk up to this point, without the money to see it through.
“We know the Government will announce its list of schemes at the end of March and this is our opportunity to put our case forward and get the cash we need.”
The Air Balloon roundabout, a key part of the missing link section, is forecasted to be 30% over capacity by 2026.
The route is already used by more than 34,000 vehicles a day and in the past 15 years there have been more than 340 casualties in accidents on the stretch.
The impact on the local economy is also significant with many local businesses affected by unreliable deliveries and lack of confidence in the road network preventing investment.
The Highways Agency, which owns the road, has investigated possible solutions and significant work has been done on this over the past 20 years.
Following this work, the A417 loop, formerly known as the Brown Route, has been highlighted as the best solution.
The A417 loop would be a new road made up of a short bypass of Nettleton Bottom, widening the existing Birdlip bypass, a new junction at Birdlip, a new junction replacing the Air Balloon roundabout and construction of an additional two-lane carriageway on Crickley Hill.
The result would be an uninterrupted dual carriageway from the M5 at Gloucester to the M4 at Swindon.
The A417 loop follows the existing route as much as possible and has been judged as the most environmentally friendly by the Environment Agency.
Other solutions, including a tunnel which would cost £1bn, have been ruled out on cost and environmental grounds.
Swindon area firms can show their support for the A417 loop by signing up and pledging their backing on www.a417missinglink.co.uk