A section of the Bristol & Bath Railway Path that was closed in early October for a scheduled eight weeks will not reopen until the end of March – meaning that it will have been out of commission for almost six months. The local council carrying out works say the overrun is due to safety reasons, but Sustrans has described the delay as “disappointing.”
The affected part of the path, Britain’s busiest dedicated traffic-free cycle route, is at Teewell Hill in Staple Hill. South Gloucestershire District Council sent letters were sent to local residents and businesses last year telling them that it would “be closed from Monday 6 October for approximately eight weeks.”
It has not yet reopened, however, and local resident and road.cc user Stuart Kerton told us that signs had appeared warning that it was closed for 22 weeks, or 32 weeks, depending which direction a cyclist was riding in.
We contacted the council to find out what the current situation is. They told us: “This essential closure was put in place in October to allow the foundation works to be carried out to widen the existing road bridge above the Bristol to Bath cycle and walking route.
“This involves using a small section of the cycle path as a construction site where the embankment foundations are being put in which will eventually hold the new, wider bridge in place.”
Simon Spedding, Street Care Design and Operations Group Manager at South Gloucestershire Council, added: “The closure of the railway path has had to be extended for safety purposes. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause to your journey while these extended works are carried out.
“Work is taking place on site to put four embankment supports in place at each corner of the bridge which is taking longer than originally anticipated. It is essential that the path remains closed while the construction work is carried out. Safe passage for users of the railway path is not possible during this work.
“We have reviewed the diversion route in partnership with Sustrans and we have put in place a shorter diversion with improved signage which should help to mitigate any further disruption.”
That diversion is via Signal Road access ramp, Signal Road, Teewell Hill, Gloucester Road, Stanley Park Road, Morley Road, Soundwell Road, Midland Road and Acacia Road, where the path is rejoined via an access track.
The council added: “Once completed, the wider bridge will also provide new footways for pedestrians.
“While the railway path is temporarily closed, we are also carrying out essential maintenance work to the Staple Hill tunnel including repointing the arch and airshafts. The work is being combined in order to keep any disruption to a minimum.”
The Bristol & Bath Railway Path was built by Sustrans between 1979 and 1986, was the first developed by the sustainable transport charity and remains the most-used facility of its type in the country.
Jon Usher, Sustrans area manager, told road.cc: “It’s disappointing that the works have overrun to such an extent.
“The Bristol & Bath Railway Path is valued because it’s a continuous traffic free corridor between the two cities, and it’s the busiest dedicated traffic free route in the country.
“Unfortunately the diversion requires people to go on-road which makes the route far less appealing to commuters and leisure users alike.
“We hope the works can be completed as soon as possible and all possible measures are being taken to look at how the Railway Path can be reopened at the earliest opportunity,” he added.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.