Calls for a new road bridge over the River Trent have been reignited following the traffic disruption caused by the recent Lady Bay Bridge closure.
And Gedling Conservative MP Tom Randall says he hopes to get work on a formal business case underway, with plans to raise the issue in Parliament this autumn.
However, a leading county councillor has warned the project could cost hundreds of millions of pounds and says it has been put “very much on the back burner” by the authority.
The potential new bridge has been talked about for decades and could connect the north side of the river at Colwick and Netherfield, in Gedling, to the south bank in Rushcliffe, close to Radcliffe-on-Trent.
No concrete progress has ever been made, however, and talks over the bridge have stalled in recent years.
But some local councillors have long spoken of a need to create the bridge and connect it with infrastructure like the Colwick Loop Road and Gedling Access Road.
This, they hope, would remove the need for some motorists to use Lady Bay Bridge and Gunthorpe Bridge, in East Bridgford, and significantly reduce congestion on busy roads like the A52 near Gamston.
Now calls have re-started after the one-and-a-half-month partial closure of Lady Bay Bridge for repairs following a crash ended on Saturday (August 20).
The inbound closure caused traffic chaos across Trent Bridge and parts of London Road, with cars unable to access Nottingham from Rushcliffe while works took place.
It came less than a year after repair works ended on Clifton Bridge following its February 2020 closure – which caused almost two years of congestion.
And Councillor John Clarke (Lab), the leader of Gedling Borough Council and ward member for Netherfield, believes both incidents show the need for a new road bridge.
If built, it would become the fourth road route over the Trent in Nottingham, and the fifth in central Notts overall when Gunthorpe bridge, further east, is included.
Cllr Clarke says surveys have previously shown support for a project which would be “ready to go” if it was given backing.
His preference would be to use an old railway bridge at the south-eastern corner of Colwick Industrial Estate which, he says, could then lead to a revamp of the estate’s main roads.
He said: “If there was a massive evacuation of Notts and Clifton Bridge or Lady Bay Bridge were shut, where would everyone go?
“Its need is shown every time there is a snarl on one of these bridges, and god knows how much pollution the recent closures have caused.
“I will campaign and push for this wherever I can. The benefits of it would be massive, we’ve just got to do the work to prove it.
“Hopefully with devolution, we will have the ability to bring it forward and take it to Government.”
Tom Randall, Conservative MP for Gedling, has also been campaigning for the bridge since his December 2019 election.
“For me, the importance of a new bridge was graphically shown when Clifton Bridge closed and there was traffic backing up all over the city,” he said.
“That, to me, illustrates why there is a massive need to address the north-south transport connectivity across greater Nottingham.
“A strategic business case would look at it on a technical level and make the expert assessment about how this project would work. That’s the next step on that and I plan to mention this in Parliament in the autumn.”
Their views are shared by some traders in both Colwick and in Radcliffe – the two potential entry and exit points for the new bridge.
Rob Tomkins, 61, runs Tomkins of Radcliffe Butchers, on Main Road, and believes the bridge could benefit his business.
He said: “I have delivery drivers coming from Colwick and for them getting here I think the bridge would be spot on.
“East Bridgford can be a bottleneck at times and I think for people trying to get across there, this would alleviate that congestion.
“The whole area of Colwick has been rejuvenated and the access to around Netherfield and Burton Joyce has been improved, so I think a bridge connecting to this would be great for all the industry there too.”
Sonya Garland, 48, who works at Quayside Cafe in the Colwick Industrial Estate, agreed and believes it is the right place due to Colwick’s links with the new £49m Gedling Access Road and the loop road into Nottingham.
“From where we are, the only way to get across is either Gunthorpe Bridge or Lady Bay Bridge and you get stuck around both of them,” she said.
“Colwick is roughly in the middle and with the industrial estates here, there’s space for it to go. The loop road is already in place to take the traffic and can link up to the Gedling Access Road.
“This would bring lorries into the industrial estate, save time and reduce footfall for people travelling here from other places.”
However, Cllr Neil Clarke (Con), portfolio holder for transport and environment on Nottinghamshire County Council, says the bridge project would be “complicated”.
He says it would require new road networks on both sides of the river, costing “hundreds of millions, potentially even a billion pounds in total”, and says analysis as long as 20 years ago showed the bridge would be costly.
Cllr Clarke, who also represents Radcliffe on Rushcliffe Borough Council said: “Engineering a bridge over a river would cost hundreds of millions of pounds and this would keep mounting up.
“It’s all about cost-benefit analysis – however much this costs, what is the benefit of this to the economy?
“It’s a very difficult debate. Yes, in principle, it would be great to have the eastern loop connection, but you also have to consider practicalities and the impact on the local infrastructure.
“It’s an ongoing conversation but it has been put very much on the back burner at County Hall.”
More details about Mr Randall’s strategic business case are expected to be announced in the autumn.
However, he says an ongoing survey with Gedling residents indicates a majority of responses support the plans.