M4 bridge must be demolished, closing Bristol to Yate road for two more years

THE bridge carrying the main road between Bristol and Yate over the M4 will be demolished – resulting in at least two more years of delays and diversions for motorists.

National Highways says the damaged Badminton Road overbridge, which was closed in July after a routine inspection raised safety concerns, will never reopen.

It will be pulled down in the summer or autumn of 2024, and a new bridge built in its place by the end of 2025.  

The bridge, next to the Wick Wick roundabout where the A432 Badminton Road meets the A4174 Ring Road, was found to have “accelerated deterioration and cracking” in the concrete.

The closure effectively cut off the main route between Yate, Coalpit Heath and Frampton Cotterell to the north and Emersons Green, Downend and Bristol to the south, resulting in thousands of vehicles a day being diverted through unsuitable country roads.

Since the summer inspectors have been using scanners to identify potential defects, and drilling into the structure to check its condition.

Inspectors examining the bridge fro the M4 during overnight lane colsures. Picture: National Highways

Their conclusion was announced at a press conference today: the bridge is not an immediate risk to users of the M4 passing underneath, but would soon become unsafe if traffic was allowed to continue crossing over it.

National Highways says the new bridge will be 20 metres (around 66ft) wide, and will “allow for more sustainable transport options to be considered”.

A spokesperson said: “The project is expected to take about two years. Due to the condition of the current bridge, it will need to remain closed to limit any further damage during the design phase.”

Diversion routes, agreed with South Gloucestershire Council, will continue to be fully signed during the closure.

National Highways route manager Sean Walsh said: “Safety is our number one priority, and our extensive and detailed investigations show that we now need to demolish and replace the bridge.

“As you will appreciate, this is an expensive complex process and we are working with partners to expedite the process as quickly as possible. 

“We fully understand the disruption the closure has and will cause, and we thank people for their patience as we move this project forward as soon as possible.

“We will continue to work with South Gloucestershire Council to help manage the impact of the closure and to progress with the bridge replacement.”

Cracks in the concrete can clearly be seen in this picture released by National Highways

Mr Walsh said that it is not possible to install a temporary bridge during the works due to timescales and costs of doing so.

Council leader Claire Young said: “We understand how frustrating this closure will be for residents, however do recognise that it is essential that National Highways carry out this work for the safety of all bridge and motorway users.

“Our highways team is working closely with National Highways and will continue to work to keep traffic moving as freely as possible around the area.”

Frustrations for drivers, bus passengers and residents

The closure has caused delays and frustration for motorists driving between Yate and Bristol.

Bus services have been diverted, with a free shuttle bus set up to stop people living near the A432 in Coalpit Heath and parts of Frampton Cotterell from being cut off from public transport.

Pedestrians and cyclists can still cross the bridge but no motor vehicles, including buses, emergency services and motorbikes, are allowed.

People living and working on the diversion routes through Hambrook to the west and Westerleigh and Henfield to the east have complained of speeding drivers, road rage and many minor accidents.

Some spoke about their concerns at a recent meeting of Coalpit Heath & Westerleigh Parish Council.

Cllr Young told residents that four times as many vehicles were using Henfield Road since the diversion had been put in place.

She said officers were looking at enforcing sped limits after complaints of speeding through the lanes with 30mph limits.

Cllr Young said at the time that if the A432 bridge needed replacement, officers would revisit suggestions including a one-way system.

Five members of the public spoke at the meeting about traffic volume, speeding, HGVs and verge deterioration along Henfield Road and Ram Hill.

They said it was dangerous to walk or ride horses along Ram Hill, or to pull safely out of driveways due to the volume and speed of traffic, and Ram Hill was being used as a cut through to avoid queuing traffic. 

Winter flooding makes delays worse

In December flooding exasperated matters – causing flurry of complaints on social media. 

At various points Perrinpit Road in Frampton, Swan Lane in Winterbourne, the Old Gloucester Road between Winterbourne and Frampton, and Henfield Road, have all been closed by floods, resulting in further diversions onto small, often single track lanes.

South Gloucestershire Council’s Steetcare department said it carried out emergency pot hole repairs and were on site digging ditches and clearing gullies.