The Llanelen Bridge is on the A4042 just over 1 mile, when heading south towards Newport, from the Hardwick Roundabout, Abergavenny. The Hardwick Roundabout forms the junction of the A4042, the A465, and the Monmouth Road a few hundred yards to the south of Abergavenny. The ‘hump back’ bridge is classified as a Grade ll listed structure.
This shows the approach to the bridge from Abergavenny. The footpath/cycle path shown on the left can be followed all the way to the Hardwick Round-about, which is approximately 1.2 miles away. On the far side of the bridge the footpath can be followed for some miles south. Potentially this footpath/cycle path is a very valuable amenity. The problem is the bisecting narrow hump-back bridge and the difficulty walkers or slow cyclists have crossing the bridge in safety. For many of the residents of Llanelen, the only way in or out of the village is by car or bus. Walking or slow cycling along the winding and narrow alternative of Gypsy Lane is not a sensible option. For some residents of Llanelen, it would be of benefit to be able to enjoy a walk for that mile or so into Abergavenny along the A4042 footpath/cycle-path. The Usk Valley Walk is an important long distance footpath widely promoted on tourism websites. Yet it requires walkers, whether local or visitors, to cross this narrow blind bridge. Young Duke of Edinburgh Award teams also regularly have to negotiate this hazard. Here is a picture of a group of young walkers doing just that at some risk to themselves. Fortunately a driver stopped his vehicle to block the traffic in both directions and put on his lights as a hazard warning to help them cross in safety.
Not all drivers are as capable and alert as this driver and this situation could have ended very differently.
Survival is all about luck and timing. Two seconds ago this red car was completely out of sight. Where can a walker go in two seconds and can a car always stop short in two seconds?
Of course the A 4042 is the route north from Newport, Cwmbran and Pontypool so there are many lorries and also occasional buses crossing this bridge. Clearly there is no room to spare. Why has nothing been done so far? A possible argument against spending money on improvements to make Llanelen Bridge fit for purpose in the 21st century was the possibility of building the ‘Llanelen By-Pass’. This is no longer an active proposal according to the Minister, Edwina Hart. A further consideration may have been restrictions on what can be done to a Grade ll listed structure. Again, according to the Minister Edwina Hart, alteration to the bridge is not specifically prohibited. Cost is inevitably a consideration. A substantial part of costs in providing a River Crossing Footbridge would be the cost of constructing foundations at or below water level.
The above photograph shows concrete pads already in place capable of forming the base of new foundations for a footbridge. As most local people will know there is frequent flooding just north of Llanelen Bridge which can cause temporary closure of the A 4042 and which results in all the traffic to be diverted down Gypsy Lane. This alternative route is clearly unsuitable for A road traffic and also is subject to flooding. It is possible that there are plans to carry out flooding prevention work adjacent to Llanelen Bridge but that there may be issues to resolve with land owners. Clearly any new ground works would have to be co-ordinated with any new bridge works.
I have exchanged several emails with David Davies, MP for Monmouthshire and he has been, and remains, totally supportive of this campaign. If I may quote him, he has said, ‘we must not let this issue drop’. I thank him for all his support and work so far. He has also enlisted the help of Nick Ramsey AM. Attached below is a copy of the latest letter from Edwina Hart. It does strongly imply that her officials are now looking into solutions to provide pedestrian and cycle access on the bridge. The brevity of the reply is a little frustrating in that there is no indication of what possible solutions are being considered and what timetable is being worked to. It does however end with a promise to keep David Davies updated on progress. It is anticipated that Nick Ramsey will ‘table’ direct questions in the Welsh Assembly asking what solutions to the problems of Llanelen Bridge are being considered, and when they might be implemented. So we await further developments from Edwina Hart.
This is not ‘a photographic mock up’ of Llanelen Bridge but a similar problem actually solved elsewhere (Pateley Bridge, near Ripon in Yorkshire). It looks natural, in-keeping and as if it has always been there. How hard can it be?
Update (9 April 2014)
Nick Ramsay A.M. submitted a written question in the Assembly as promised, and obtained the helpful answer from Edwina Hart copied below:
WRITTEN ASSEMBLY QUESTION FOR ANSWER BY THE MINISTER FOR ECONOMY SCIENCE AND TRANSPORT ON 10 APRIL 2014
Nick Ramsay (Monmouth): Will the Minister detail what options are being considered in her official’s review of pedestrian and cyclist access on the A4042 Llanellen Bridge in Monmouthshire and provide a timetable for when the findings of this review will be made public? (WAQ66681)
There are currently three options:
• A new footbridge separate to the existing road bridge.
• A new footbridge attached to the existing road bridge.
• Installation of traffic signals on the existing road bridge, to halt traffic and allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross.
A feasibility study of these options will be available after Easter.
Clearly options 1 And 2 would satisfy the concerns I have raised.
Option 3 would also satisfy the concerns raised with the additional benefit, if Llanelen Bridge was reduced to single flow traffic by use of traffic lights, of also making the Bridge less intimidating for some drivers, who do not feel comfortable meeting oncoming lorries on the bridge. It is possible that a foot/cycle path could run alongside a single lane of traffic over the bridge.
The potential difficulty presented by traffic lights is that they would routinely cause a queue of traffic backing up towards the fairly tight bend on a descending hill just south of the bridge, which restricts visibility. There is the possibility of a vehicle coming around the bend and meeting the tail end of the ‘traffic light queue’ and having a ‘shunting’ accident. This concern was born out a couple of years ago when temporary light were installed just north of this bend towards the bridge to allow B.T. to carry out repairs to their junction box. There were 2 or 3 ‘shunting’ accidents in only a few days. I was witness to one of them. I would urge Edwina Hart to have her officials consider this option with great caution because there is little point in replacing one hazard with another.