|Avon Ring Road|
|Distance:||16.5 miles (26.6 km)|
|Meets:||A38, M32, A4017, A432, A4175, A420, A431, A4, A37, A38|
|Route outline (key)|
The A4174 is a notorious half-loop of Bristol, which remained in an even less complete state for many years owing to arguments over routing of the eastern flank of the route. Today the northern section is clogged by traffic lights, even on the roundabouts, while the eastern section is similarly clogged by at-grade roundabout junctions. And the southern section? Only partially dualled, it is the forgotten link, which may never be completed.
The Northern Section: Filton - Bromley Heath
We start on the A38 in Filton, with a roundabout junction. The A38 north is dual carriageway all the way to the M5 at the notorious junction 16, while southwards it is a typical inner-city road, mainly S2 but sometimes with two lanes each way, often obstructed by parking and bus lanes. Opposite the A4174, the B4056 leads into Southmead.
Setting off, eastwards, we pass the Shield Retail Centre, part of the Filton Business & Industrial areas and then join the residential Station Road. It appears that there may have been some demolition, certainly some compulsory purchasing of gardens, to get the road through. There are four sets of lights before we reach the railway bridge, and then the two halves of the dual carriageway flare out to meet the massive Abbeywood roundabout. There's another two sets of lights and then the large and complex M32 junction 1. I say complex, because of the number of lanes that circulate the roundabout, each spiralling out to their own exit.
Next stop is Hambrook lights then, after half a mile, the Bromley Heath Roundabout, where the A4017 joins; this used to be a spur of the A4174. We now have over a mile to the next junction, a roundabout with the A432 Yate Road. However, if you are heading westbound at peak times, you will need to watch for the 2+, Car sharing lane.
The Eastern Section: Bromley Heath - Hicks Gate
At the A432 roundabout, we turn south, with three more roundabouts in quick succession. Lyde Green (with potential for a future link to the M4), Emersons Green serving the retail park and then Shortwood, serving the B4465 to Pucklechurch and Mangotsfield. For a long time this was as far as the A4174 reached, the next section across Siston Common being very controversial.
However, after much debate and lengthy public enquiries (not to mention anti-road protestors), the three miles to Warmley were opened in late 2001. There is only one intermediate junction, with the A4175 at Siston Common. The section of A4175 that used to run south to Warmley is now unclassified, if not removed, even though for many years it and the B4465 filled the gap in the ring road.
At Warmley, a roundabout junction gets us across the A420 Chippenham-Bristol Road. There's another roundabout serving Cadbury Heath and then we reach the A4174's only remaining spur, Marsham Way, which connects to the A431 Bristol-Bath road. The main dual carriageway passes under the A431, with a three-mile unbroken run over the River Avon to the A4 and the Keynsham Bypass.
The Southern Section: Brislington - Bedminster
After a 2.5 mile multiplex west along the S2 A4 (albeit with extra lanes in places), we return to the A4174 at Brislington. After passing the B3119 junction, the road stays wide, without any further turning lanes, but is lined as just S2. There is no room to dual this section without robbing front gardens, but soon the houses peel back and wide grassy banks line the road as we pass the Tesco roundabout.
As we approach the A37 junction, the grass disappears, but the houses are served by access roads at the front, again potentially allowing for dualling. It's through the traffic lights, and again there is almost room for a dual carriageway, although a little pinching here and there would be necessary, and then the road does indeed become dualled as we cross traffic lights onto Hengrove Way. Of course, any plans to run a dual carriageway through the above sections are now sitting in dusty basements, never to be revisited, but it is evident that the original planning allowed for it.
Hengrove Way takes us through more traffic lights for the retail park and on to the Airport Roundabout, and then the dual carriageway continues westwards. Unfortunately, the A4174 turns northwest and soon retreats to S2. We now run through 'parkland' and then industrial estates to reach the A38 at a very large one-way system at Bedminster. From here, the A3029 finishes the ring road job, leading to the A4 Portway, and so up to Junction 18 on the M5.
As hinted at above, there were once big plans for the southern section of the A4174 Avon Ring Road. Fans of Sabre and Pathetic Motorways may have come across ideas for motorways around southern Bristol, connecting the M4 and M5 in an M42-esque manner. The A4174 is the 'Plan B'. As mentioned, Hengrove Way continues westwards as a Dual Carriageway from the Airport Roundabout.
If you take a look at Google Satellite Imagery, you will see that the Hengrove Way dual carriageway comes to an abrupt halt at a roundabout, although land for it clearly continues. This runs between houses, and then into King George's Road - look at those wide grassy areas between the road and garden walls. We then arrive at Highridge Green, with open country to the A38. Certainly, a better route than the current 'rat-run' through to the Kings Head Roundabout further north. (Incidentally, the 'works' visible on Google are thought to be upgrades to the Water/Sewerage system, certainly not advance works for a new road! Intriguing that its on the right sort of alignment though...)
But it doesn't stop there. Zoom out a little, and you will find the A370 just across fields and a golf course, with a dualled section where the ring road could have linked. The Cambridge Batch junction with the B3130 is grade separated, despite joining two S2 roads, then a northern Nailsea Bypass, and we've reached the M5 at Junction 20.
In 2015 work started on a watered down single carriageway link from Hengrove Way to the A370 Long Ashton Bypass. This is anticipated to take the A4174 number, with the existing route becoming an extension of the A3029. However, precise plans of the work being undertaken seem to be difficult to find and so it is not yet clear exactly what standard this new road will be when opened.
The A4174 doesn't exist on the 1953 OS Map, or at least the north and east sections don't. The bits that exist to the South of Bristol are all unclassified. By the mid-1970s, the A4174 is quietly minding its own business, linking the A38 at Filton to the Bromley Heath Roundabout, where (presumably without a roundabout) it turned south down what has only recently become part of the A4017. As late as 2002 maps showed this as a surviving spur of the A4174, splitting to give a further spur along Cleeve Hill, the mainline running down Overndale Road, both terminating on the A432. Sensibly, these are now both renumbered as A4017, leaving the A4174 to do its proper job of circling Bristol without any complications.
To the south of Bristol, work was also progressing in the 1970s, although largely as a result of Suburban development, the final sections across the former Hengrove Airfield being built much later.
As mentioned above, the final sections of the current A4174 were opened in late 2001, filling the missing link across Siston Common.
This page was a candidate for Article of the Month September 2009