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Outer Circuit Road

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Outer Circuit Road
Outer Circuit Road.png
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From:  St Werburgs
To:  St Werburgs
Via:  Temple Meads, Bedminster, Clifton
Meets:  M32, A4, A37, A38?, A370?, A420, A4018
Traditional Counties

Gloucestershire • Somerset

Route outline (key)
OCR Bristol Outer Circuit
Junction List
Junc Clockwise Anticlockwise
- Start of Road M32
- A420 A420
- Feeder Road Feeder Road
- A4, A37 A4, A37
Tunnel Victoria Park Tunnel
- A38 A38
- A370 A370
- A4 A4
- A4018, B3129 A4018, B3129
- No Exit Hampton Road
St Michaels Hill
- A38 A38
- B4052 B4052
- M32 Start of Road

The Outer Circuit Road would have formed a circuit around central Bristol.

One contemporary map has the eastern part as a motorway under construction with an opening date of 1975.


Early Plans

The first reference to an outer circuit road was made in the 1950s but it wasn't until the mid 1960s that plans appeared.

Original mid 1960s plan

The first plans were for an orbital route around the city centre between M32 J3 and the junction of St Johns Lane and Sheene Road in Bedminster. At both these points there would have been breaks in the grade separation where the roads it crosses, M32 and A38, have flyovers. This design is known to exist in 1966 and a year or two either side.

Later Plans

Over time adjustments were made to the junction layouts and towards the end of the 1960s there were major changes affecting the route. Significant changes were made between M32 J3 and Lawrence Hill Roundabout. The earlier plan had Easton Way as the mainline with a LILO junction for the A432. By the late 1960s the plan was to build Easton Way with a semi wide central reservation with space for a future viaduct to support the Outer Circuit Road above. This would allow the A432 to cross Easton Way at-grade without the limitations of the LILO or interfering with through traffic. M32 J3 itself was changed from a two level interchange with the M32 passing above the roundabout to a three level interchange with the M32 passing below, the roundabout on the middle level and the Outer Circuit Road passing on top.

We continue clockwise to Feeder Road Interchange where subtle changes were made for it to become a trumpet. Next is the huge Three Lamps Interchange which changed several times over the years until the whole OCR scheme was canned in 1974. The basic principle of the junction remained the same where two important radial routes converged with the OCR to effectively create a five way junction but the designs became progressively more complexed which reached its peak in 1972 before a much simpler layout was planned in 1973 during the twilight years of the scheme.

Beyond the Three Lamps were the most significant changes to the route. The route near Bedminster was shortened by means of a tunnel beneath Victoria Park. The idea of a grade separated A38 bypass for Bedminster seems to have been abandoned by the 1970s and the new junction here now has the OCR on a flyover creating the fully freeflow route lacking in the earlier mid 1960s plans.

Next we cross the river to the Floating Harbour area where more significant changes were made to the route. The impetus here was the planned redevelopment of the docks following the intention to close the docks as larger ships were now using the facilities at Avonmouth. The earlier mid 1960s proposals for a large high level cable stayed bridge passing over the entire docks area were changed to a lower level road with smaller bridges connecting the OCR to Spike Island. Another improvement over earlier plans is the inclusion of a spur to Ashton Gate which provides vital connections to the west of the city, something the earlier plan was lacking. This spur has freeflow connections to the OCR along with a roundabout for local traffic.

Continuing clockwise from Spike Island things become hazy as hardly anything from the later plans has come to light. The only part known is the junction with Hampton Road/St Michaels Hill which remains a half diamond but now has the slip roads facing southwest rather than northeast.

Later plan from the early 1970s

Some important notes about this map. Later plans for the Easton Way section were for a cantilever viaduct carrying the main OCR above. While the route of the viaduct and the flyover at M32 J3 is known there are at the time of writing no plans found showing the slip roads. It can only be assumed that there would be slip roads allowing connections between the viaduct and the M32 roundabout. Evidence supporting this can be found by looking at the layout of the Pennywell Road/Easton Way junction prior to remodelling in 2010. There is a strip of land wide enough for a two lane carriageway which is in the right position to allow a slip road down from the viaduct. There would naturally be a similar setup for the southbound entry to the viaduct although there is no evidence on the ground. The layout for the northern side of Lawrence Hill Roundabout is also supposed. Because the traffic flows at this junction would be of a much more local nature it is assumed that Easton Way could carry all traffic between there and the OCR north which would also have to traverse the roundabout at M32 J3. There is no evidence suggesting there would have been connections between Lawrence Hill Roundabout and the viaduct. It would also be extremely unlikely for there to be no connections at all between either roundabout and the viaduct as this would force all traffic on the OCR south of Lawrence Hill wanting the M32 to use Easton Way and the expensive viaduct being under utilised.

Another area where information is lacking is the large junction complex on Spike Island. The layout is fully accurate but the only plan found doesn't show how the slip roads pass above and below one another. Therefore a best guess has been taken as to how the bridges would have crossed. The only bridges known to be the right way round are those passing over Cumberland Road and Commercial Road. A later plan of the area with a much simplified layout shows the four arm roundabout above the Ashton Gate spur and this has been applied here.

The area in grey is where no information has been found for plans beyond the initial mid 1960s proposals. Therefore it shows the line of the earlier route even though it may have changed.

The Final Years

1972 represented the pinnacle of the Outer Circuit Road's plans. After many years of various designs and plans work was underway on the first stage, Easton Way. Plans were also well advanced for the next stage, Lawrence Hill to Three Lamps and at least two plans from that year show it as a Special Road. We should not assume it would have been motorway but rather it is likely that it would have been used to restrict non-motorised traffic.

If 1972 represented a high then 1973 would be the start of a gradual decline. Although Easton Way was completed and opened to traffic that year the design for Three Lamps was drastically simplified. Gone is the large sweeping roundabout in amongst freeflow slip roads and instead we now have a couple of tight loops with the OCR grinding to a halt at a smaller roundabout with stubs for a future continuation towards Bedminster. Despite the changing fortunes of the road the land required to make way for the now not so huge Three Lamps Interchange was cleared of existing buildings. This left a huge scar in the Totterdown area that agitated the local community.

By January 1974 the last rites were being read. The oil crisis had bitten and local government reorganisation was looming. Added to the effects of a weakening economy and local opposition to large scale urban roads it comes as no surprise to find the city council had requested the government to delete all further stages of the OCR beyond Three Lamps from the development plan. This left the city facing the prospect of building an expensive road that will dump all its traffic in Totterdown. There was still the commitment to build the road as far as Three Lamps so beyond there the plan had changed. The Outer Circuit would no longer be a circuit but a J shape terminating on Brunel Way at Ashton Gate. This would create an east-west route allowing traffic by avoid the central area. This also raised the possibility of scaling down plans for the Inner Circuit Road as traffic would use the southeast corner of the OCR instead. The abandonment of the northwestern side of the OCR also meant a much simplified layout for the large junction on Spike Island. The planned spur to Ashton Gate would now become the mainline so the large tangle of slip roads on Spike Island could be changed to a simple Roundabout interchange. None of this was destined to happen.

The end came in April 1974 with the change in local government. All work stopped before construction could commence on the cleared land at Totterdown. Nothing was ever heard of the Outer Circuit Road after that.

New developments

Since then there has been some progress. By the late 1980s new houses were built on the cleared land at Totterdown when it became clear that a new road would never be built there. At around the same time the former Three Lamps fingerpost which had been in storage since 1973 was reinstated in its rightful place. The main problem was Easton Way on its own never really served a purpose and there was still a need for road improvements in the area. A new link was planned from Lawrence Hill to the A4 further east than the original OCR proposals. This opened in 1994 as St Philips Causeway.

Outer Circuit Road
Related Pictures
View gallery (10)
Feeder Road Later Design.pngTyndalls Park Interchange.pngThree Lamps Final Design.pngThree Lamps 1969.pngOuter Circuit Road later design.png
Other nearby roads
A4 • A36 • A37 • A38 • A369 • A370 • A403 • A407 (Bristol) • A420 • A430 (Chippenham - Bristol) • A431 • A432 • A3024 (Bristol) • A3029 • A3034 (Bristol) • A4017 • A4018 • A4032 • A4044 • A4162 • A4174 • A4175 • A4176 • A4320 • B3119 • B3120 • B3121 (Bristol) • B3122 • B3123 (Bristol) • B3124 • B3125 • B3126 • B3129 • B4045 (Keynsham) • B4046 • B4047 (Gloucestershire) • B4048 • B4049 • B4050 • B4051 • B4052 • B4053 • B4053 (Colston Street, Bristol) • B4054 • B4055 • B4056 • B4057 • B4058 • B4465 • B4466 • B4467 • B4468 • B4469 • E30 • E105 (London - Fishguard) • E116 (Old System) • EuroVelo 1 • EuroVelo 2 • Longest Lane • M4 • M5 • M32 • M49 • NCN4 • NCN41 • South Bristol Spur • T9 (Britain) • T16 (Britain)

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