A final emotional drive around the A417 Cowley roundabout before huge three year contraflow change

You don't know what you have until it's gone. And from today (Monday), the Cowely roundabout on the A417 as we have known it will be no more.

The roundabout at the start (or end) of the notorious Missing Link section near Nettleton Bottom is to be replaced with a contraflow system on July 1. It's all for the construction of a new Cowley junction where the new section of the A417 will eventually join the existing carriageway in Spring 2027.

The existing road will look very different from Monday, with traffic reduced to a single lane in both directions, and a temporary mandatory speed limit of 40mph. The Cowley Roundabout will no longer be in use and traffic travelling south will not be able to exit towards Brimpsfield at this location., National Highways says.

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I would have used the Cowley roundabout countless times over a number of years, heading south towards Cirencester, Swindon and the M4 and, of course, returning to Cheltenham and Gloucester.

Travelling south, it's the gateway to dual-carriageway freedom after driving along the 'Missing Link' single-carriageway section past Birdlip.

Travelling north towards the M5, it's usually the scene of huge delays as traffic on the dual-carriageway has to go down to one lane.

The A417 contraflow system at Cowley roundabout
Work taking place on the A417 Cowley roundabout ahead of the contraflow system being put in place on Monday, July 1

Ahead of the contraflow coming into effect on Monday, I took my car on one final nostalgic drive south along the Missing Link on Friday morning (June 28) and around the Cowley roundabout, and then heading through Brimpsfield to Birdlip and then back towards Cheltenham.

Not surprisingly, southbound traffic was bad from the Crickley Hill section of the A417 from the A46 Shurdington Road junction and up to the Air Balloon roundabout. It was also slow going along the Missing Link section towards the Cowley roundabout.

As I drove past the site of the demolished Air Balloon pub, traffic heading north towards Gloucester and Cheltenham was backed up. It was slow or stationary back past the Birdlip junction, past the Golden Heart Inn at Nettleton Bottom, and to the Cowley roundabout - although there was no queuing northbound traffic on the dual-carriageway section.

I spun around the roundabout and turned right towards Brimpsfield (which drivers won't be able to do from Monday), enjoying the drive through the narrow country lanes in the sunshine.

The new contraflow that starts on Monday
The A417 contraflow system at Cowley roundabout -Credit:National Highways

And as I made my final exit from the roundabout, my driving life flashed before me - the places I had driven too from this junction, the people I had been with. It was real and it was emotional.

As someone who has accumulated many wasted hours in A417 jams, news that a new seamless dual-carriageway will soon run from the A46 Shurdington Road right down to the M4 is great news. I am sure there will some more delays in the months and years to come with the contraflow system that will make me miss the 'glory' days of the Cowley roundabout bottleneck.

But by 2027, when the new bypass is up and running, I hope to have found any pain well worth the gain.

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