ONE of Gloucestershire’s worst traffic blackspots has been approved for a £460 million upgrade by the Transport Minister to tackle congestion.

National Highways has said it will boost the regional economy and transform journeys for millions of people.

The long-awaited scheme will improve the important connection between Gloucester and Swindon. 

Often referred to as the ‘missing link’ scheme there has been an outcry to improve the often congested A417 three-mile route between the Brockworth bypass and Cowley roundabout - which links the M4 and M5.

Poor visibility means there have been regular accidents, with a knock-on effect on the local roads that drivers often divert onto.

It was announced in April that National Highways awarded a £460 million contract to Kier to design and deliver the A417 upgrade.

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: An artist’s impression of the scheme shows plans for a 37m-wide crossing to cross the improved A417 safelyAn artist’s impression of the scheme shows plans for a 37m-wide crossing to cross the improved A417 safely (Image: National Highways)

Transport Minister Huw Merriman announced the decision today (November 16) and said the route will be ‘safe’ and ‘resilient’ while conserving the character of the Cotswolds area. 

Construction is due to begin later in 2023.

National Highways’ Chief Executive Nick Harris said: “We’re delighted with the Minister’s decision. 

“This means we can get going with this major upgrade, which is vital for local communities and the regional South West economy.

“We would like to thank everyone who has worked with us to help shape this vital scheme and provided valuable feedback. 

“We will continue to work closely with local communities as we move towards the start of construction in 2023, making sure everyone is kept informed and disruption is kept to a minimum. 

“This is a significant investment of £460m in our road network that will improve road safety, reduce traffic congestion and improve connectivity for road users and local communities.

“We are designing the scheme to fit sympathetically within the landscape, providing the opportunity to link habitats and support environmental sustainability, while unlocking economic growth in Gloucestershire and beyond.” 

Paul Baker, programme director – UK South for Kier Highways, said: “Kier Highways is proud to be working in conjunction with National Highways on this notable scheme – the A417 Missing Link, which is a crucial connection between the M5 and Swindon.

“We will work together to build a landscape-led design that will enhance the strategic network whilst preserving this special AONB for the local community.

“We will work closely with our stakeholders and customers to minimise disruption and stay connected throughout to provide reassurance of our commitment to you until this major project is concluded.”

David Owen, GFirst LEP CEO, added: “We are delighted that the Minister has now given his full approval to the A417 ‘Missing Link’ scheme. 

“It is a daily source of delays and frustration for motorists and hauliers and sadly may have contributed to a number of fatalities and serious injuries over recent years.

“We believe that National Highways has developed an exceptional scheme.

"It will not only resolve the critical transport issues but will minimise the environmental impact locally. 

“We very much look forward to seeing the project start on-site in 2023.”

On an average day, the road carries approximately 40,000 vehicles.

Highways England said their aim is to improve this section of the A417 with a scheme that includes:  

  • Four miles of new dual carriageway connecting the existing A41 Brockworth bypass with the existing A417 dual carriageway south of Cowley 
  • The section to the west of the existing Air Balloon roundabout would follow the existing A417 corridor. However, the section to the south and east of the Air Balloon roundabout would be offline, away from the existing road corridor  
  • A new junction at Shab Hill, providing a link from the A417 to the A436 towards Oxford and into Birdlip  
  • A new junction would be included near Cowley, replacing the existing Cowley roundabout  
  • The existing A417 between the Air Balloon roundabout and the Cowley roundabout would be repurposed. National Highways would convert some lengths of this existing road into a route for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, while retaining other sections to maintain local access for residents. 

You can view the Transport Minister's decision letter here -

For further information on the A417 Missing Link upgrade - go to

Following the green light, National Highways’ A417 project team and contractor Kier, will be out meeting communities following the latest announcement. 

They can be found on the following dates and times:

•    Tuesday, November 22 from 11am to 4pm: Royal George Hotel, Birdlip, GL4 8JH

•    Wednesday, November 23 from 9am to 5pm: National Star College, Ullenwood Manor Road, Ullenwood, Cheltenham, GL53 9QU

•    Thursday, November, 24 from 9am to 5pm: Brockworth Community Centre, Court Rd, Brockworth, Gloucester, GL3 4ET

•    Friday, November, 25 from 8am to 2pm: Outside M&S, 173 High St, Cheltenham, GL50 1DF