Reflections on the Gipsy Patch Lane closure

Photo of Gipsy Patch Lane railway bridge on 24th June, 21 days into the closure.

Residents in the Stokes breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday 27th June when South Gloucestershire Council confirmed that Gipsy Patch Lane would reopen as planned in time for the morning peak on Monday 1st July.

The busy commuter road had been closed at the Station Road railway bridge for four weeks commencing Monday 4th June in order for BT to divert underground utilities ahead of the replacement of the bridge with a much wider concrete structure in 2020.

The bridge replacement and associated highway works are being carried out as part of the Cribbs Patchway MetroBus Extension (CPME) scheme, which will provide an express bus service between The Mall and Bristol Parkway Station, also serving the upcoming development on the former Filton Airfield.

The June closure was a precursor to an anticipated eight-month full closure of the road planned for early 2020, either side of the main bridge replacement work over 12 days at Easter.

The first day of the closure proved something of an anti-climax as the anticipated gridlock failed to materialise, perhaps because motorists had heeded warnings and adjusted their journey times or maybe because Mondays is traditionally a quiet day on the roads anyway. But signs of things to come were already apparent on Stoke Lane and Little Stoke Lane as traffic tailed back to Little Stoke Park during the morning peak.

The situation was much worse the next day, Tuesday 4th June, with traffic tailed back on Bradley Stoke Way as far as the Willow Brook Centre and on Brook Way to Manor Farm Roundabout and some commuters reporting additional delays of up to 35min.

A rainy Tuesday morning on 11th June, compounded with a major incident at the top of the M32, brought more misery, with reports of it taking 30min to pass along Braydon Avenue and gridlock surrounding the mini-roundabout at the end of Stoke Lane, near the A38.

But the low point came on Tuesday 25th June when heavy rain during the morning peak brought Bradley Stoke to a standstill in all directions with BBC Bristol reporting additional delays of 35min on Bradley Stoke Way, described by one motorist as being “like a car park”.

Photo of gridlocked traffic on Bradley Stoke Way on the morning of 25th June.

Reader comments gathered after the closure indicate that Little Stoke Lane was a particular problem area with long queues forming at peak times and complaints of inconsiderate and rude behaviour from motorists towards pedestrians attempting to cross the road, even at designated crossings.

Several readers have called for temporary traffic lights to be installed at the mini-roundabouts along this route during the 2020 closure, to ensure that each entry point is given a fair share of priority.

Slightly further afield, readers reported long delays at Patchway Roundabout and the A38 northbound approach to the Aztec West Roundabout during the afternoon peak.

Although Gipsy Patch Lane was naturally much quieter due to the road closure, residents here reported inconsiderate parking by workers choosing to leave their cars on the east side of the bridge and walk through (an option that will not be available during the 2020 closure). Disappointment has been expressed that this issue was not adequately ‘policed’ as had been promised.

The council was keen to stress that all businesses along Gipsy Patch Lane and its side roads remained open for business and signs were displayed to this effect. The extent to which these businesses may have suffered from a drop in trade is unclear at the time of writing.

Readers have questioned why traffic signal replacement work at the Abbey Wood Roundabout on the A4174 was programmed to overlap with the Gipsy Patch Lane closure (said to have been planned long ago) and why it was not possible to open the bus-only left turn from Bradley Stoke Way onto the A38 southbound to general traffic (said to go against the principle of encouraging sustainable travel).

Back at the bridge site, it was noted mid-way into the road closure that BT’s work close to the bridge seemed to have ground to a halt, suggesting that a problem had been encountered. By the end of the period, excavations had only been made to the west of the bridge with nothing at all done in the carriageway under or to the east of the bridge.

A statement issued by SGC towards the end of the closure explained:

“Although Openreach has completed a lot of the planned work, unfortunately, due to unexpected ground conditions and locations of other live utility pipes and cables, Openreach has not completed it all. The remaining work to lower some of the ducts and cables will now be carried out during the main CPME construction programme in 2020. This avoids the need to extend the current closure beyond 1st July.”

In response to a query from the Journal about the impact of the recent closure on traffic flows, an SGC spokesperson replied:

“The June closure has been extremely valuable in providing us with information for the main closure next year. We have monitored traffic levels in the area and we are using this data, together with data collected prior to the closure, to investigate whether there are any potential interventions that can be put in place for the next closure.”

“Although our analysis of the collected data is continuing, our observations so far indicate that there has been variation on a day to day basis. On some days it has been quieter than expected, however, when incidents occur on the wider network, or if there is adverse weather such as heavy rain, then this has a significant impact on increasing congestion during peak periods, which is often the case in the North Fringe area.”

• The full business case for the overall CPME scheme was approved by the West of England Combined Authority (Weca) on 14th June. The revised total cost is now £56.9 million (up from the original £35 million estimate in 2015). A cost breakdown in the Weca assessment report shows that the bridge replacement is costing £26.73 millon.

Photos: 1 Gipsy Patch Lane railway bridge on 24th June, 21 days into the closure. 2 Gridlocked traffic on Bradley Stoke Way (near the Stoke Brook bridge) on the morning of 25th June.

Major traffic congestion reports on Facebook

See also: Post-event feedback on the four-week closure (BSJ Facebook)

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of the Stoke Gifford Journal magazine (on pages 8 & 9). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to over 5,000 homes in Stoke Gifford, Little Stoke and Harry Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

UPDATE (12th July 2019)

Gipsy Patch Lane closure led to 40% drop in takings for Tyres Direct business (BBC)

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One comment

  1. The fact that BT Openreach were unable to complete their planned works due to ‘unexpected ground conditions’ doesn’t bode well for the closure next year. What assurances have we had from SGC that the eight month closure will be adhered to?

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