Jack Lopresti: Junction 18a is our best hope of getting South Gloucestershire moving

Latest Column from the office of Jack Lopresti:

If you have ever travelled to or through South Gloucestershire then you will have undoubtedly experienced challenges along the A4174 Ring Road, particularly at the Hambrook lights junction. It is a vital arterial road which carries tens of thousands of commuters, shoppers, workers and visitors around the West of England. Additionally, you may have experienced difficulty on the M4 or M5 travelling through South Gloucestershire, as both tend to queue heavily at the junctions. I personally find the Aztec West roundabout very difficult at peak commuting times.

A problem as complicated as traffic congestion has no silver bullets; there are no ‘magic wand’ solutions which will see the situation improve overnight. However, there is one proposal I have been supporting alongside colleagues at South Gloucestershire Council and my fellow South Gloucestershire MPs:  A new Junction 18a on the M4 at Lyde Green. This is not a new proposal; indeed, it has been mooted for some decades now, but it is finally beginning to gain momentum.

Having helped secure funding for the £500,000 feasibility study to investigate the merits and the business case for building a new junction, we now have the results. A new junction on the M4 would help relieve congestion on the M4, M5, and A4174 Ring Road. It would reduce queueing on several other motorway junctions, reducing the likelihood of collisions and thus having a positive impact on road safety. If there is an incident at a particular location, a new M4 junction would help reduce the impacts across the road network, something transport planners call ‘network resilience’. Furthermore, a new junction would help offer greater certainty of how long a journey would take, as drive times can vary greatly when the traffic volumes are at the current levels.

As well as the benefits from a motorist’s point of view, the junction would also offer an economic boon to our local area. A new junction could potentially facilitate up to 5,700 new jobs. It is a well-worn phrase that ‘time is money’ and the time benefits offered with reduced congestion and more reliable journey-times also offers a financial benefit to businesses, as well as offering an increased incentive for employers to move to the area and stay in the area, thus protecting jobs and hopefully encouraging more growth.

This major piece of infrastructure, which will cost around £428m is an absolute ‘must have’ for our local area and I joined West of England Mayor Tim Bowles and my fellow South Gloucestershire MPs in meeting with Roads Minister Baroness Vere, and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, to lay out our case for a new junction and underpin the contribution we make to the national economy as one of the handful of local economies who give back more financially than we take in from the government coffers. Earlier this week I met with Sajid Javid, Chancellor of the Exchequer and will be making a formal submission for the Budget, requesting funding for this project. In order to make sure this important issue gets a proper hearing in Parliament, I have also asked for a full debate on transport infrastructure in South Gloucestershire in particular,  to discuss the benefits of a new M4 Junction 18a.

The benefits of a new junction are clear, but equally clear are the risks of not investing in our infrastructure. Business areas with poor transport infrastructure simply do not thrive. As we enter a new age of British independence where we need now more than ever to signal that Britain is open for business, delivering a serious infrastructure upgrade to one of the nation’s most important economic hubs must certainly be the best way to reinforce that message.

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