Why we're repairing Gaol Ferry Bridge, what the repairs are, how long they'll take, how to stay up to date with the project.

Gaol Ferry Bridge was closed in August 2022 to carry out essential repairs.

Gaol Ferry Bridge is a well-used foot and cycle bridge. When inspected, it was found to be in a very poor condition in need of structural repairs.

It provides a foot and cycle path across the New Cut of the River Avon, joining the south of Bristol to the city centre. It's the main pedestrian route across the river into Wapping Wharf.

We closed Gaol Ferry foot and cycle bridge on Monday 22 August 2022 to carry out essential repairs.

What the repairs are 

The repairs will address structural issues, including: 

  • replacing structural steelwork and rotten timbers
  • repairing the steel lattice work and some stonework 
  • repainting the bridge

The works will future-proof the structure and avoid escalating costs.  

How long the repairs will take

The bridge needs to be completely closed from when the repairs begin and remain closed until they're completed.

Having removed the decking and started the process of stripping off the paint and corrosion, it has become clear that the bridge is in a worse condition than we had thought.

As a result we have had to revisit the programme and may need to extend the works for an extra three months. This will mean the bridge would be temporarily closed for up to a year overall, provided no other structural issues are uncovered.

We'll do all we can to complete the essential repairs as soon as possible, including weekend working on the bridge.

Project plan

Work completed as of February 2023 includes:

  • setting up the site
  • install bridge closure and set out diversion route signs
  • install first stage of scaffolding to underside of bridge
  • strip out bridge decking and timber bearers
  • survey steel structure of the bridge to determine condition
  • design the scope and extent of repairs
  • gain approval from designers of extent and nature of repairs
  • replace steel stiffeners and bolts
  • covering a section of the bridge with an environmental wrap to stop paint and other pollutants getting into the river for phased grit blasting to remove corrosion and all paintwork

Upcoming work includes:

  • continue with the phased grit blasting
  • complete structural steel repairs
  • repaint substructure of bridge in phases
  • install new decking system
  • repaint superstructure of the bridge in phases
  • remove encapsulation membrane from scaffolding
  • remove scaffolding from bridge
  • carry out masonry and other miscellaneous repairs
  • reopen bridge to users
  • remove all diversion route signs
  • taking the site down

Temporary bridge or pontoon suggestions

Some residents have suggested the solution of a temporary bridge over the New Cut at Gaol Ferry, like the much smaller one erected during work on Prince Street Bridge in recent years. 

Due to the nearly 60 metre span across the river and the need for accessible ramps, this would most likely: 

  • require the closure of both Cumberland Road and Coronation Road to traffic 
  • cost as much as the repairs themselves

This would impact our ability to repair and maintain other bridges along the New Cut. 

A floating pontoon is not a viable option because of the changing tides of the river within the New Cut.

Restoration costs and funding

The repairs will cost in the region of £1.5 million.

This figure reflects the extensive repairs that have been revealed having removed the decking and paint from the bridge.

It's still within the budget set aside for the works.

The repairs are being partly funded: 

  • through highways capital budget 
  • from the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement, provided by the Department for Transport

Diversions during restoration work

The bridge is closed.

The diversions for the closure signpost people along routes via Bedminster Bridge or Vauxhall Bridge.

Gaol Ferrry Bridge diversion map Aug22

You can also use an interactive map and route planner.

Diversion audio guides

We have recorded directions of both diversionary routes for people who are blind or partially sighted.

Please note, when following the directions, when we say something is over to your left, we mean it is on the other side of the road.

  • Listen to the recording of the left hand diversion along Coronation Road and across Vauxhall Bridge
  • Listen to recording of the right hand diversion along Coronation Road and across Bedminster Bridge

If heading from the city centre to south Bristol, both sets of directions can be followed in reverse.

Support for local businesses

The temporary bridge closure is likely to impact nearby businesses, such as Wapping Wharf.

If you're a local business, check if you're eligible for retail, hospitality and leisure business rates relief or small business rate relief.

Businesses can also apply to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) to request a temporary reduction in their rateable value for the period that the bridge is closed.

Businesses do not need a rating agent for this process, which can be handled between the ratepayer and the VOA.

About Gaol Ferry Bridge 

Gaol Ferry Bridge is an ornate suspension bridge that opened in 1935. 

It was called Gaol Ferry Bridge because it replaced a ferryboat crossing and was built near Bristol's old prison, New Gaol, before it was mostly demolished.

The entrance and part of the Gaol walls still stand on Cumberland Road and are designated as a grade II listed building. The bridge replaced a ferryboat crossing.

Restoration of other New Cut bridges 

Five more New Cut bridges are set to be repaired over the next five years, including: 

  • Bath Bridge
  • Bedminster New Bridge
  • Bedminster Old Bridge
  • Langton Street Footbridge
  • Vauxhall Footbridge

Work will include: 

  • joint repairs
  • resurfacing and masonry strengthening 

This work will make sure each bridge remains open and safe for many years to come.

We will seek funding from the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement for these repairs and will look to stagger the work to keep the city moving as much as possible. 

Keep up to date about Gaol Ferry Bridge works

We'll update this page as the programme of repairs progress. 

We'll also: 

  • write to residents and businesses near the bridge
  • put up signs at the bridge
  • send out news to the local media
  • share updates on our social media channels