Drivers face massive disruption when M5 bridge is closed
DRIVERS will face traffic chaos when a motorway bridge near Cheltenham is closed for a year.
The Highways Agency plans to demolish the 40-year-old bridge at junction 10 of the M5 in March next year and build a £12 million one by March 2013.
It will mean the A4019 Tewkesbury Road being closed at that point and junction 10 being closed to northbound traffic.
Anxious councillors are now pressing for the work to be done as quickly as possible to help minimise disruption for motorists.
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Gloucestershire County Council, Cheltenham Borough Council and Tewkesbury Borough Council have joined forces to fiercely oppose the plan to close the main road for so long.
The Highways Agency is responsible for motorways and most trunk roads, meaning the councils cannot stop the closure going ahead. But they want the work done as quickly as possible.
Diversions are in the main likely to affect junctions eight, where the M5 meets the M50, and 11, the Gloucester and Cheltenham junction.
Councillor Will Windsor Clive, the county council's cabinet member for communities, which includes highways, said: "There's no doubt this closure will cause major disruption and the three councils will continue to push the Highways Agency to get this work finished as quickly as possible. This is a big project but we simply don't believe it will take a whole year for this work to be carried out."
The council's list of demands, which the agency says it hopes to be able to meet, includes 24-hour working and a full traffic plan being produced to take into account the impact on local roads.
Councillor Steve Jordan, leader of Cheltenham Borough Council, said: "This is a substantial engineering project which will clearly cause significant disruption to the town.
"It is vital that the time the bridge is out of action is kept to a minimum. We will do all we can, working with the county council, to assist the Highways Agency in completing the project in the shortest possible time.
"We will also be requesting that the agency explain their proposals in greater detail to affected communities, businesses and the general public."
Tewkesbury Borough Council's lead member for economic development and promotion, Councillor Dave Waters, added: "Unfortunately, the closure of this road will have a significant impact on our residents and on those people who use this road to go to and from our area, including Tewkesbury and many of our rural communities.
"Closing this road for a year, in addition to the inconvenience, will seriously affect our residents, visitors and the local economy, so we will be working closely with our partners to make sure the impact is as minimal as possible."
Dave Sledge, the Highways Agency's area delivery manager, said: "We are taking Gloucestershire County Council and our partners' concerns very seriously, which is why we have been working very closely with them for the last two years on the development of this scheme.
"The bridge is now approaching the end of its working life so we needed to take action to maintain safety and protect this important link between Cheltenham and Gloucester."
* The work will take place after the National Hunt Festival.