THE idea of a new Severn bridge to link the Forest and Stroud is being floated by MPs.
Conservatives Neil Carmichael (Stroud) and Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) met early today to discuss the idea of building a new crossing.
Mr Carmichael said a crossing between Lydney and Sharpness would boost the economy in both those areas, lead to infrastructure improvements, and help ease traffic congestion on the A40 at Over.
“I’m talking about improving links to Dursley from the M5, better broadband for the area, and better links to Sharpness,” he said.
“Clearly links to the Forest of Dean should be on the agenda and we are assessing options.
“It is at a very early stage but we are considering making a case.”
He said the idea is part of his Carmichael Commission, a project group charged with the task of making sure all parts of his constituency benefit from the rebalancing of economy towards design, production and industry.
“It looks at the rural economy and how we can enhance economic growth in Berkeley, Sharpness, Cam and Dursley,” he said.
“We need to make sure that area is properly looked at.
“There would have to be further upgrades of the surrounding roads and the question of tolls needs to be looked at too.”
Mr Harper is expected to raise the issue of tolls and a new Severn crossing in a Westminster debate tomorrow.
“A new Severn crossing would be an important piece of infrastructure for the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire and the wider region, and one that requires serious consideration,” he said.
“The exact location of any crossing needs to take a number of factors into account.
“The obvious ones are geography, engineering feasibility and cost.
“However, we also need to carefully consider the impact on communities in the wider area, including those who might be affected by increased or altered traffic flows.
“This is a matter that needs serious consideration, and I have asked Gloucestershire County Council to begin looking at this.
“I’m glad that Neil Carmichael is supportive of the principle of a new Severn crossing, and I would be happy to work with him to find the best option for our constituents.”
There are no road crossings between the M48 Severn Bridge connecting Bristol and south Wales and the Over bridge a mile north of Gloucester.
It means morning commuter traffic heading from the Forest of Dean and Newent to Gloucester and Cheltenham is jammed in long tailbacks.
The toll for a car travelling from England to Wales stands at £6.40 but it’s free-of-charge in the other direction.
The charge is the same on the Second Severn Crossing, south of the M48, and carries the M4 between Bristol and south Wales.
A new bridge could cut journey times and traffic queues and it is not without precedent.
The Severn Railway Bridge connected Sharpness and Lydney until two barges collided with the loss of five lives in 1960. That bridge linked riverside communities and children from Berkeley and Dursley attended school in Lydney. That bridge was later demolished.
A ferry carried vehicles across the Severn between Aust and Beachley before the M48 bridge was opened in 1966.
Until the start of the 19th Century, the river was forded between Arlingham and Newnham and a passenger ferry operated there until just after the Second World War.
A new bridge could reconnect those communities, separated by three-quarters of a mile of the Severn river estuary.
“The benefits would be pretty widespread,” said Mr Carmichael. “Gloucester would benefit because of the traffic which would not have to go through Gloucester, so it also makes sense from that point of view.
“I want the Carmichael Commission to come back in the Autumn with a report but I do want to hear from the public on what they think of the idea too.”
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