Traffic chaos at Bristol ring road junction to continue for years due to bridge closure

-Credit: (Image: Copyright Unknown)
-Credit: (Image: Copyright Unknown)


Traffic chaos at a Bristol ring road junction could continue for years after a trial to cut air pollution has not yet worked. Thousands of petitioners are calling for the controversial trial to be scrapped as they say the changes to the junction have led to longer queues and journey times.

Five years ago South Gloucestershire Council made changes to the Hambrook junction on the A4174, linking Frenchay and Hambrook via Bristol Road. These included banning right turns in an effort to reduce harmful levels of nitrogen dioxide.

This also means drivers travelling north along Bristol Road have to go onto the nearby M32 roundabout, rather than simply driving straight across the junction. And with the closure of the nearby Badminton Road bridge, traffic jams appear to have become even worse.

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Council bosses were urged to change tack, given the lack of apparent progress and impact of the Badminton Road bridge closure. But one cabinet member said there was little the council could do, during a cabinet meeting on May 13.

Conservative Councillor Liz Brennan said: “Residents are extremely concerned about the current road layout at the Hambrook junction and the fact that there’s no right turn is causing problems for drivers. While the decision by the previous administration to close off the right turn in order to improve air quality was undoubtedly the correct one at the time, with additional roadworks now taking place in other parts of the district, the current set-up isn’t working.”

The restrictions on the junction -Credit:Copyright Unknown
The restrictions on the junction -Credit:Copyright Unknown

The decision to introduce the restrictions at the junction was taken in 2019, when the Conservatives ruled the council. Last year, they lost power in South Gloucestershire and now the council is run by a coalition of Liberal Democrats and Labour.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Chris Willmore, cabinet member for planning, regeneration and infrastructure, said: “It was a decision taken by your government, imposed by the JAQU [Joint Air Quality Unit] which is a government body. The directive requires the council to achieve a particular air quality outcome at that junction.

“The only way you could get that junction towards compliance was to put the current arrangement in place. Your administration went back to the government asking if it could be relaxed, and they said no. We’ve asked them, and they said no.

“We can’t take that junction arrangement off unless the junction is in compliance, or somebody can wave a magic wand and come up with a different solution that would get the junction in compliance. It doesn’t matter how much political campaigning you do, you couldn’t find a solution because there isn’t a solution to it until the air quality levels come down.”

Last July, the Badminton Road bridge closed, after inspectors found cracking and severe deterioration. Replacing the bridge is expected to take two years adding to further problems for drivers as the A432, which runs over the bridge, is one of the main routes into north Bristol.

Cllr Willmore added: “I’ll give you a clue. The extra traffic on that junction, because of the A432 closure, isn’t reducing emissions at the junction. More cars mean more emissions, meaning even greater postponement of the day at which the JAQU directive can be lifted.”

Almost 4,000 people have signed a petition calling for the traffic lights to be reinstated. The petition was started by Angeline Gay, who lives in Moorend. She said the changes have increased her journey times, using extra fuel and emitting extra air pollution. Several petitioners also gave their reasons for signing.

Margarita Smith said: “I have to wait at four sets of traffic lights to cross from Frenchay to Winterbourne, which is just crossing one road. I’ve waited for lights at Bristol Road to change three times because cars cannot get onto the ring road if it’s blocked with traffic, partly because no cars can turn right. This change was supposedly for a trial. But nobody has seen evidence that it has cut down pollution.”

Aimee Nicholson added: “Surely it’s not doing its job cutting down emissions, if you’re sat in traffic for two or maybe three times as long?”