Council scheme to create new M4 underpass nears completion
A major road scheme, which will unlock thousands of new homes and employment land to the south of Swindon, will be completed in the coming weeks.
The Wichelstowe Southern Access (WSA) was created to provide a new route into one of Swindon’s newest housing developments.
Swindon Borough Council’s contractor, Alun Griffiths Ltd, built the new underpass underneath the M4 motorway to meet one of the planning conditions for the 4,500-home Wichelstowe development, which will also support a new district centre and around 2,000 new jobs by freeing up 12.5 hectares of employment land.
The engineering project was made all the more impressive because the motorway was kept open throughout. This was possible due to the creation of specially-built embankments either side of the M4, which were used to redirect lanes of traffic while work took place to excavate and build the underpass below.
The new underpass will eventually allow traffic to enter and leave Wichelstowe and join up with a new junction at Hay Lane and Wharf Road close to Junction 16 of the M4.
While the Council’s WSA scheme is now almost complete, including construction of the underpass itself, completion of the new road, Wichel Way, will fall to developers of the Wichelstowe site, who will finish work on the road and connect it to Wichelstowe. Wichel Way will stay closed to traffic until that work is complete.
As well as the construction of the underpass itself, once in use, Wichel Way will also connect to Wharf Road via a new roundabout, which is already in use south of the M4. With the majority of work to construct this new road layout off the main highway network, construction throughout the project also meant minimal impact on road users, with traffic management mainly consisting of overnight road closures and temporary traffic lights.
The Department for Transport (DfT) allocated £22.9m in funding towards the scheme via Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership, with Swindon Borough Council contributing an additional £5.8m.
Councillor Gary Sumner, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Strategic Infrastructure, Transport and Planning, said: “As a requirement of the planning permission for the wider Wichelstowe area, the WSA scheme has allowed us to plan ahead, and help ensure the right infrastructure is in place as new houses and businesses are built in the years to come.
“It’s likely that some residents will know little about this scheme due to the fact it caused little disruption to road users and local residents. This is thanks, in part, to the clever engineering methods used and efficient management of the highway network, which has meant an entire underpass has been excavated and built below the motorway, without the need for any significant closures.
“While Wichel Way is yet to be opened, this scheme has been about planning ahead, to introduce the infrastructure needed for our ever expanding town and support key developments like the Wichelstowe site. Once developers of the Wichelstowe site complete the new road, it should be a useful new route across the M4 for local residents of Wichelstowe and Wroughton.”
Roads Minister, Baroness Vere, said: “It’s fantastic to see this vital scheme near completion. Our multi-million-pound investment will significantly boost the local economy in Swindon and the surrounding areas, with the road scheme supporting the creation of thousands of homes and jobs at the Wichelstowe development, as we build back better and level up transport across the country.”
Further details about the Wichelstowe Southern Access scheme, including FAQs and an illustrated video of how the underpass was created, are available on the Council’s website: www.swindon.gov.uk/wsa