Anything else that had been missing for as long would surely have been declared ‘lost’ years ago. That possible solutions to the problems that permeate that irritating stretch of the A417 between the roundabout at Nettleton Bottom and the Air Balloon pub, are still up for discussion is a tribute to the doggedness of campaigners who have kept it on the transport agenda.
How to resolve ‘The Missing Link’, as it is known, has been a bone of contention for as long as I can remember. I was attending serious road collisions as a uniformed police officer over 30 years ago and the inherent dangers pre-date that. Why vehicles using such a strategically important road, which effectively links the M4 and M5 and is a conduit between London, the Midlands and the South West, are still being shoe-horned into a rolling, daily traffic jam is at least an oversight and at worst a national scandal.
As a public representative, I must declare an interest here. I live within earshot of the A417 and so have first-hand experience of the innate noise and air pollution. Much worse, a neighbour was killed trying to negotiate it; just one of its hundreds of casualties over time.
The fact is, any planner worth their salt should have foreseen that such a cartographic design would never work, especially when laid out on paper. And even if they failed to recognise in advance the folly of sandwiching a couple of miles of single track road between a pair of motorways and two dual carriageways, they should have put it right by now.
But, I can reveal – as journalists like to say – we could be on the cusp of a significant announcement.
By chance I was asked to take part in the production of two films recently. The BBC’s One Show report on increased policing of the road was screened a couple of weeks ago. The other, filmed by the Highways Agency, suggested a decision on which of the favoured options will be chosen, could be imminent.
I won’t hold my breath but maybe the answer to the missing link is about to be revealed.