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Political row erupts over third Severn crossing proposal

By Ben_Falconer  |  Posted: March 19, 2014

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PROPOSALS for a new Severn crossing have been dismissed as a ‘red herring’ by opposition politicians.

Labour has gone on the attack after Conservative MPs Mark Harper and Neil Carmichael floated the idea of a bridge between their Forest of Dean and Stroud constituencies.

With an £85million road repairs backlog facing the county, and cross-party county council agreement on a need for cash to improve the A417 ‘missing link’ near Birdlip, Labour politicians said a bridge between Lydney and Sharpness is a bridge too far.

"It seems the silly season of empty promises before a General Election is with us already,” said Gloucestershire County Council Labour leader Lesley Williams. “As a county we have a £85m shortfall in our roads and highways budget.

“We have also all party agreement on the urgent need to resolve the continuing problems with the A417 . So I question where the bridge proposal fits in versus these pressing priorities.”

Labour county councillor Graham Morgan, who represents Cinderford, said: "People in Forest would welcome a third bridge. But we do not want red herrings from Tory MPs.

“The Tories need to explain how they are going to pay for a third bridge, especially as first Severn bridge which could be put back into public hands in 2017 needs tens of millions of pounds spent on it.”

Mr Harper, who raised the idea in Parliament, has asked the county council to consider it, and Mr Carmichael believes it could bring economic benefits to both side of the river, and improve dire traffic snarl ups between the Forest of Dean and Gloucester.

Mr Carmichael has made the suggestion part of his Carmichael Commission, a project group tasked with making sure the south of his constituency does not miss out on economic growth.

Steve Lydon, the Labour county member for Dursley said: "It seems strange that the so-called Carmichael Commission, which has not even met yet, is coming up with recommendations on capital projects which have national implications.

“When will the businesses and residents of Dursley and the surrounding areas be asked to give their view on priorities for the area?”

There are no road crossings between the M48 Severn Bridge connecting Bristol and south Wales and the Over bridge, a mile north of Gloucester.

A new bridge could cut journey times and traffic queues.

Mr Harper accepted it as a long term solution - one which he said Labour did not address.

“Clearly a third Severn crossing is a major project and would take a number of years to come to fruition,” he said.

“Given this, I want the process to start, which is why I have asked the Highways Agency to look at the options

“Congestion on the A40/A48 is a real problem for my constituents. The county council and the Highways Agency have some improvements planned for this year and next which will help.

“However, I make no apology for putting forward a realistic and practical long-term solution. It's disappointing that in their 13 years in power, Labour did nothing about it.”

Mr Carmichael said the Coalition Government had come up with £45million to double the Stroud to Swindon railway line and will consider proposals to improve the A417 - and it is right to start a debate about a third Severn crossing.

“That’s a measure of our commitment to improving infrastructure,” he said.

“We have not finished - there is more to do.

“We are right to start talking about another Severn crossing, it is part of a story of economic growth which Sharpness must be part of.”

He said the Carmichael Commission has met in private and will meet in public.

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4 comments

  • GlosAnarchy  |  March 20 2014, 10:48AM

    Lecorche - I would suggest a small toll to pay for maintenance but annual passes available for local residents and businesses (both sides). As I said before and probably upset someone local (look at the red thumbs) to the area the transport infrastructure could be paid for by property developers allowing them to develop green field sites that are clearly enclosed (Railway lines and A48) this will reduce the likelihood of creeping development. With the alterations to the A4066 and a new M5 junction great economic gain will be spread accross a massive area from the Forrest to Dursley increasing housing value and creating jobs. The single railway crossing would create the possibility of some really interesting new local rail services with new halts/stations to service the local communities along a new Cheltenham to Bristol service via Lydney and Berkeley. This alone could have a massive affect on the traffic along the A48/A40 if people could just catch a train trough to Cheltenham or Gloucester from smaller settlements along the line these stations/halts could be constructed again by allowing limited development in the area of each and the developers paying the bills.

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  • Lecorche  |  March 19 2014, 8:53AM

    A Sharpness crossing joining the A48 to the A38 is long overdue. Even a weight restricted bridge would be invaluable. A free crossing would be even more welcome.

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  • SmlngAssassin  |  March 18 2014, 6:15PM

    Glosanarchy I agree 100% with your forward thinking and just wish all concerned would stop looking at short term solutions. - I believe this planet has a few years left, so let's plan for that and create a long term joined up plan that doesn't move problems to another area., getting it right first time

    |   3
  • GlosAnarchy  |  March 18 2014, 5:10PM

    Why don't the council sit down with local developers and make planning available in the area if they pay to create the new infrastructure. A combined road and rail bridge, link roads and railway would be well within their budget and they could not just pay for but actually construct the four new railway stations (Severn Bridge, Sharpness, Berkley and Berkley Road). Suitable areas for development could be the area to the east of Lydney bounded by the A48 and the triangle bounded by the railways at Berkley. The A4066 could be rebuilt to more closely follow the railway from the bridge till it's meeting with the A38 and then across to the M5 where a new junction would not just serve the new bridge and development but also Dursley and the surrounding areas. The station at Berkely Road would make Cam station redundant but a new station could be placed at Stonehouse on the line to Bristol. This improvement would allow a circular route taking commuters to the main line (Bristol), Cheltenham and Gloucester from more outlying areas. This would be a long term project but other councils and communities are planning to reopen railways as a community asset creating jobs, bringing visitors, allowing more and faster commuting to work. Look at the proposal for Tavistock recently brought into the foreground by the problems at Dawlish!

    |   -16

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