The £460 million scheme is set to start the next stage of major construction, which will see earthworks start to excavate a completely new section of road from the Air Balloon roundabout – away from the existing route to minimise disruption.

From March, earthworks will see 1.5 million cubic metres of rock excavation – enough to fill 400 Olympic-sized swimming pools – and the removal of 300,000 cubic metres of topsoil to create 5.5km of new road over the next 18 months.

The majority of the materials removed from the landscape will be stored and repurposed throughout the build to help to minimise the scheme’s carbon footprint and impact on the environment

Steve Foxley, A417 Missing Link Project Director, said: “The start of these earthworks marks a significant milestone for this major scheme, which is incredibly important for Gloucestershire’s future and vital to unlocking the region.

“We are doing everything we can to minimise disruption to drivers and residents while we upgrade this vital junction, including installing new lanes for construction vehicles on the existing A417.

“The A417 is used by 40,000 drivers every day and building the first section of the new road ‘offline’ – away from the existing road – means that we will drastically reduce the level of disruption to users and ease their road experience throughout the build.”

National Highways has already undertaken works to widen the lanes on the A417 leading up to the Air Balloon roundabout and installed a new temporary roundabout on the A436.

At Leckhampton Hill, the project team have commenced earthworks for our new compound & car park area, and members of the public will see plant machinery moving about, excavating and digging into the soil and rock. At some locations, the excavation will be up to 16 metres deep.

As the project moves through 2024, work will also be starting on several new bridges and crossings, including Gloucestershire Way, Cowley Overbridge, Stockwell Farm Overbridge, Cotswold Way and more.

National Highways will also be bringing archaeology and environmental mitigation works to a close, marking the end of major milestones for the project.

National Highways will be hosting a series of public information events in March and April in which members of the public can find out more about the scheme and upcoming works:

  • Tuesday 19 March – Girl Guides Deer Park, Cowley GL53 9NJ
  • Wednesday 20 March – The George Inn, Birdlip, Royal George Hotel, Birdlip, GL4 8JH
  • Monday 25 March – Shurdington Community Centre, Bishop Rd, Shurdington, Cheltenham, GL51 4TB
  • Wednesday 27 March – Brockworth Community Centre, Court Rd, Brockworth, Gloucester, GL3 4ET
  • Wednesday 3 April – National Star College – National Star College, Ullenwood Manor Rd, Ullenwood, Cheltenham, GL53 9QU

All events will take place from 1400 to 1830.

On Tuesday 19th March, the A417 main contractor, Kier, is also allowing for a sneak peek behind the curtains of the scheme as part of Open Doors.

Open Doors entails construction companies opening their sites across the UK to visitors to show behind-the-scenes work that takes place, as well as the variety of roles available in the construction industry.

For the A417 there will be two visits, including a visit to our site, talks from different teams, and the chance to discuss different career routes. The visits are scheduled for 10am-12pm & 1pm-3pm.

On an average day, this section of the A417 carries approximately 40,000 vehicles. Congestion can be frequent and unpredictable, and with motorists diverting onto local roads to avoid tailbacks, this causes difficulties for neighbouring communities.

The landscape-led scheme, as well as preserving and enhancing the surrounding Cotswolds National landscape (formerly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), will help to eradicate the notorious bottleneck, unlock Gloucestershire’s potential for growth, support regional plans for more homes and jobs, and improve life for local communities.

National Highways’ A417 Missing Link scheme includes:  

  • 3.4 miles of new dual carriageway connecting the existing A417 Brockworth bypass with the existing A417 dual carriageway south of Cowley; 
  • the section to the west of the existing Air Balloon roundabout would follow the existing A417 corridor. However, the section to the south and east of the Air Balloon roundabout would be offline, away from the existing road corridor;  
  • a new junction at Shab Hill, providing a link from the A417 to the A436 towards Oxford and into Birdlip;
  • a new junction near Cowley, replacing the existing Cowley roundabout;  
  • the existing A417 between the Air Balloon roundabout and the Cowley roundabout would be repurposed, converting some lengths of this existing road into a route for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, while retaining other sections to maintain local access for residents.

Find out more about the A417 Missing Link and for the latest scheme updates here.