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 on Monday 22 August 2022 to carry out essential repairs.

Gaol Ferry Bridge is a well-used foot and cycle bridge. It's now in a very poor condition and needs 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 will need to be completely closed from when the repairs begin and remain closed until they're completed.

Due to the complexity of the project, we've revised our plans for the work and think it could take between 6 and 9 months to carry out the repairs safely.

We'll still work to encourage our contractors to reopen the bridge as soon as possible.

Project timelines can also change depending on external factors, like if we find the bridge is in a worse condition when all the decking is removed.

We promised that we would give at least two weeks' notice before we close the bridge. On 5 August we confirmed that Gaol Ferry Bridge will temporarily close for essential repairs on 22 August 2022.

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 million. This could change once we've removed all the decking and can see the full condition of the structure. 

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 was closed on Monday 22 August 2022.

We put up signs at the bridge and diversion signs ahead of the closure.

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.

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