The carriageway of the ancient bridge over the River Usk is narrow, as is the single footway on the downstream side. Traffic across the bridge has increased markedly since a major supermarket was sited on the Llanfoist side (Waitrose), the village’s housing estates have grown extensively, and the A4143 has become an alternative to the A40 trunk road through the town. Crossing the bridge by bicycle or on foot can now be very unpleasant and intimidating, a particularly unfortunate feature of National Cycle Network Route 46, which links Abergavenny to routes south to Newport and west through Llanfoist and on the old railway line path to Brynmawr. While not quite as bad as nearby Llanelen Bridge (at least there is a single narrow footway), it’s still hostile for walking and particularly cycling, as the road is busy and used by many large lorries and commercial vehicles.
In 2003 the Welsh Government proposed to make this section of the A4143 the trunk road, replacing the route through the town centre (A40). It was proposed to provide a new foot/cycle bridge attached to the western, upstream, side of the present bridge, together with a toucan crossing in order to reach the cycleway across Castle Meadows. The bridge was to have gone more or less where the old railway bridge once stood:
Local opposition to the upgrading of the road to a trunk road left the matter unresolved, though the Cycle Group at the time accepted the proposals.
Time has passed since then and the growth of housing since the mid 2000s, mainly on the eastern side of Llanfoist, has increased demand for a stand-alone foot/cycle bridge somewhere downstream of the road bridge. While the 2003 proposal might help Route 46 users, it would be of limited value to the majority of village residents.
The Cycle Group and others have been pressing for a comprehensive study that would decide where the crossing should be, how it should be reached, the cost and how it might be funded. Monmouthshire County Council has backed the need for the study, which would have to involve Natural Resources Wales (responsible for the management of the river) and Cadw (responsible for safeguarding the architectural heritage and aesthetics of the town).
Thus far the County Council has been unable to find ways of meeting the costs of the study and any bridge construction project that might follow. The related question of whether to de-trunk the A40 through Abergavenny town centre appears to be back on the agenda. The bridge is the missing link in a network of safe, traffic free routes in the area, including a potential safe cycle route to Gilwern, soon to be home of Monmouthshire’s flagship Velopark cycle sport facility. Hopefully all these developments mean there’ll be a renewed impetus to resolve this long-standing issue.