Mar 22

A417 simplified, save footpaths, save pub, save congestion.

Image (c) Google
Gloucestershire Ramblers reviews options put forward by Highways England and presses for at least a short green bridge for the Cotswold Way, Gloucestershire Way, walkers, the pub and road users.

Email your views at   A417@gloucestershireramblers.org.uk

Highways England is consulting on two options to try to resolve the Bottleneck at the Air Balloon roundabout (named after the nearby old coaching inn).

Gloucestershire ramblers have examined these two route options 12 and 30 and also looked at the cheapest tunnel option 3.
All three were on Highways England shortlist of six.
Option 3 has a 1km 0.6mile tunnel from the base of Barrow Wake reappearing at the back of Shab Hill. It takes all the A417 through traffic off local roads leaving the Cotswold Way and the Gloucestershire Way in much quieter surroundings at the Air Balloon site. Imagine what it would be like there with no A417 traffic.

However Option 3 is projected to cost some £875m. That’s a huge increase over the £485m for option 30 and £465m for option 12. But as we’re talking about a popular Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty should we press for extra funds to be found?
Here are the anticipated total costs and some sort of Adjusted Benefit Cost Ratio from the Highways England report.

The National Trust and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust have expressed disappointment that a tunnel option wasn’t put forward to the public. Cotswold District Council has come out in support of Option 30.

Option 30 once up the hill to the Air Balloon, travels through open countryside from there to Cowley Roundabout, keeping away from the current A417. Notice the link road from Barrow Wake to Shab Hil.

Option 12 instead follows a tighter loop and tries to upgrade much of the current A417 route with junctions for access to places such as Birdlip. Unlike option 30, or a tunnel it tries to keeps A417 traffic on its current route.

At this stage, of the Highways England consultation, there is little mention of footpaths. To support either option as it stands could give carte blanche to a decimation of the network. Anyone who has tried to use the footpaths bisected by the A417 near Birdlip knows that it can be almost impossible to cross. There is also little mention of mitigation works to try to reduce traffic noise spreading to surrounding countryside.

At their presentation Highways England gave some fly-through conceptual videos of what they hoped to achieve.
However the video may be misleading when it travels up to the Air Balloon site

It’s useful to see the current A417 still in place from the roundabout towards the new A417 dual carriageway for both options 12 and 30. It also shows the new road cutting across in front of the roundabout at the location of the Air Balloon pub. What is not quite so obvious is that the road is 20-30 metres (100ft) deep in a cutting. A bridge over the top also isn’t shown, that allows the current A417 to travel towards Birdlip (to the middle right of the image).
The Cotswold Way and Gloucestershire Way somehow have to find a way through or are diverted.

With the new road so deep, it might seem straightforward to take it directly underneath the pub leaving local roads and footpaths unaffected. It may be cheaper- it would save the cost of a  compulsory purchase order on the pub. Would this make it cost neutral?
Is the cost of a 100ft deep cutting + a bridge + buy the pub, more or less than a short tunnel?
Highways England have allowed some budget for a Green Bridge within their options. A Green Bridge is a term used for a tunnel less than 150 metres in length. If this budget is used for this green bridge with a pub on top, would it make the scheme more than cost neutral? Or do we keep the green bridge budget for one of the other crossings?
Also shown in mauve and yellow are two slip roads to take Seven Springs A436 traffic down to the new A417 similar to Option 3.
Here’s the way option 30 might look. Imagine either a 100ft deep cutting with the pub gone, or a short tunnel with the pub on top.

Option 30 also has a link road from Birdlip to Shab Hill. Wouldn’t anyone either drive up to the Air Balloon or down to Nettleton and Cowley Roundabout? Highways England video fly-through shows the Shab Hill junction
Their own report says the link will have a severe adverse impact on the landscape. If it’s not really necessary why not delete it from the plan ( and save some more) ? Let’s call it Simplified Option 30.

Back in 2014 when options were discussed, one of the ideas was to cut any new road slightly below surface (tunnel without a roof)  to reduce spread of traffic noise. Footpaths, bridleways and other rights of way would pass on flat bridges over the top.

In summary the Simplified Option 30 has

  1. the new A417 cut slightly below surface to reduce traffic noise, level bridges footpaths etc over.
  2. delete the cross link to save the countryside and money. Include the slips onto the A417 at the Air Balloon.
  3. short tunnel under the pub, keep the Cotswold way and Gloucestershire Way on their present line

Keep local roads for local traffic. Get the A417 M4-M5 traffic onto the new road.

Is this good enough or should we press for a longer tunnel if funding can be found?

Some history

Gloucestershire County Council walking leaflet with an image of the pub at the old turnpike junction of some old coach roads Gloucester – Oxford (A436), Cheltenham  – Bath (B4070)

Local news links

Cotswold District Council support Highways England Option 30

Gloucestershire County Council  too

Gloucestershire Ramblers

National Trust and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust

Press cuttings

Western Daily Press

Gloucestershire Echo March 29 2018

Gloucestershire Echo 5th April 2018




  1. Mr. Fredric Leach

    The Ramblers Association simplified option 30 is the best scheme for the improvement of traffic flow whilst maintaining the current infrastructure and environment in the area of The Air Balloon roundabout. It is also important to establish safe routes for pedestrians in this area and the current recognised Cotswold and Gloucestershire Ways.

  2. David Tomlin

    Protect the public rights of way footpaths whichever option is decided, with foot bridges or traffic light crossings however expensive. It is already difficult to cross the 3 lane road below the Air Balloon from Crickley Hill Tractors over to the minor road to Cold Slad. The alternative is to cross by the Air Balloon pub but that can also be tricky unless motorists are feeling kind and give way. Pedestrians should not have to take their lives in their hands in order to enjoy their hobby.

    A short tunnel, as suggested by the Ramblers Association, would be an ideal solution, to preserve the Air Balloon and provide a crossing point for walkers, horse riders and cyclists.

    Chairman – Cheltenham Rambling Club

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