Traffic chaos predicted as bridge over M5 repaired
COMMUTERS will face traffic chaos after highways bosses said they would make repairs to a bridge over the M5 in the spring.
The Department of Transport had initially insisted that the Piffs Elm bridge at junction 10 could not be repaired, only replaced.
But it has now backtracked over plans, saying innovative working techniques will allow for repairs after all.
The road will not be closed to traffic, but delays are expected as the work goes ahead.
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The Government agency also admitted that plans for creating a four-way junction at the spot would not be discussed until after the Joint Core Strategy (JCS) – a housing plan for Cheltenham, Tewkesbury and Gloucester – had been finalised. This could take another two years.
Businesses close to junction 10, just outside Cheltenham, had called for the work to be done to enable traffic to join the motorway going south and exit going north. They insisted it would increase trade and prevent many unnecessary journeys through the town.
The bid, backed by an Echo campaign, was prompted a year ago by plans to replace the junction's 40-year-old motorway bridge.
Plans to close the road while it was replaced led to outcry.
Detailed plans for the scheme have not been finalised, but work should start in April.
Simon Daws, landlord of the Gloucester Old Spot close to the junction, campaigned for the work to be carried out.
"It is about time they realised it did not need to be entirely replaced," he said.
"The bridge needs repairing with the minimal amount of disruption."
Tewkesbury MP Laurence Robertson met transport minister Stephen Hammond to discuss the junction yesterday.
He said: "If the work needs to be done, then it has to be done, but I am putting on pressure to get it done as quickly as possible."
Highways Agency area performance manager Dave Sledge said: "Further assessment has shown only the supporting structure needs to be repaired, alleviating the need to replace the bridge as originally intended."
Another study was carried out by the agency on whether to upgrade the junction by building extra entry and exit slip roads.
Regional planning manager Andrew Page-Dove said: "The key conclusion from the study is that such a junction upgrade would not provide an overall benefit to the present traffic conditions."