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Orwell Bridge to close this week as high winds forecast to hit Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 12:37 16 January 2018 | UPDATED: 11:17 30 January 2018

The Orwell Bridge in Ipswich is expected to be closed on Wednesday and Thursday. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The Orwell Bridge in Ipswich is expected to be closed on Wednesday and Thursday. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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The Orwell Bridge is expected to close for the third time this winter as high winds are forecast again on Thursday morning.

The closure of the Orwell Bridge is likely to bring more traffic into Ipswich town centre.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN The closure of the Orwell Bridge is likely to bring more traffic into Ipswich town centre. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The Met Office is predicting high winds of more than 50mph during the night through to Thursday lunchtime.

That has prompted Highways England to announce that the bridge is likely to shut at about midnight on Wednesday/Thursday – and that it will remain closed until the winds dropped. That almost certainly means it will be shut during the Thursday morning rush-hour.

The warning says high winds are expected to continue until 1pm on Thursday – although the re-opening of the bridge will depend on the speed of the wind on the structure.

It will be the third time this winter that the bridge has been closed because of high winds and the second time this year – it was closed on November 22 and on January 2.

The A14 will be closed between the Copdock Mill and the Seven Hills interchanges. Traffic will not be able to drive along the A14 to the Wherstead Road junction or the Nacton Road junction.

A spokesman for Highways England confirmed the bridge would be completely shut to all traffic – he said it was not possible to only close it to lorries or high-sided vehicles.

He said: “We tried to do that at the Forth Bridge near Edinburgh, but that could only be advisory and a lorry driver decided to go over anyway and was blown over shutting the bridge for 80 hours.”

However the closure is set to hit the local economy hard. This month’s closure cost the Ipswich economy an estimated £1m according to Ipswich Central chairman Terry Baxter.

Traffic on the Orwell Bridge. Stock image. Picture: ARCHANT Traffic on the Orwell Bridge. Stock image. Picture: ARCHANT

After the last closure he said: “Our early estimates suggest that the decisions taken by Highways East will have cost our businesses over £1 million in lost revenue and disruption. That is totally unacceptable.

“I was involved in discussions with the highways authority nearly a year ago and was assured that any decision to close the bridge would be needed ‘once in a blue moon’ – instead, it has shut three times [in the last year].

“This cannot go on.”

The Agency is also preparing to introduce new protocols about when the bridge should be closed and when it might reopen – they are due to be published next month.

Ipswich central chairman Terry Baxter said the impact the bridge closure had on businesses was Ipswich central chairman Terry Baxter said the impact the bridge closure had on businesses was "unacceptable". Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Read more: Met Office issues yellow wind warning for Suffolk and Essex on Wednesday and Thursday

Suffolk PCC Tim Passmore repeats call for fewer closures

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore was exasperated by the news that the Orwell Bridge is to close yet again because of high winds.

He accepted this was a safety issue – but said it showed the necessity for the authorities to work together to find alternative solutions to the problem.

He said: “We will have to put up with this, but there must be things that can be done – installing baffles on the bridge, bringing forward a northern by-pass, it is vital something is done.

“At least we know there are going to be problems. People can make arrangements. They can leave earlier for their journeys to work – some people can work from home.

“But this is not good enough because we know that when the bridge is closed it will have a serious impact. This is an issue that needs a national government response. I am pleased Chris Grayling mentioned it last week. It is not just a local issue – it is a national issue.”

Wherstead Road traffic problems ease

There was some good news for drivers in the south west of Ipswich as the roadworks which have caused major problems in Wherstead Road were completed three days early.

And planned overnight engineering work which would have shut off the Shotley peninsula from Ipswich between 7pm and 5am every night this week have been postponed.

The Wherstead Road gas main works were due to continue until Thursday, but the work was finished by Monday afternoon allowing the temporary traffic lights to be removed.

And night-time drivers heading to Shotley found the Strand remained open between Bourne Bridge and the Suffolk Food Hall despite overnight closures being announced to repair potholes in the road surface.

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said some of the equipment needed for the work was not available, so it had been delayed for a short time.

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