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Suffolk Highways vows more proactive look at Orwell Bridge closure impact on Ipswich roads

PUBLISHED: 05:30 22 December 2018

Suffolk Highways wants to take a more proactive look at how to reduce the chaos on Ipswich's roads when the Orwell Bridge has to close Picture: ARCHANT

Suffolk Highways wants to take a more proactive look at how to reduce the chaos on Ipswich's roads when the Orwell Bridge has to close Picture: ARCHANT

“We have got to do something more proactive.”

That is the message Suffolk’s highways chief has issued over the impact of Orwell Bridge closures on Ipswich.

Councillor Mary Evans, Suffolk County Council’s Conservative cabinet member for highways, addressed questions from the council’s scrutiny committee on Wednesday, December 19, where she vowed to look more proactively at how to mitigate the huge volume of traffic which brings Ipswich to a standstill when the bridge closes.

“I think we need a more satisfactory answer than ‘oh dear, the road is closed there’s going to be chaos,’” she said.

“We see the costs to the local economy, to local residents and also to the wider economy when that crossing is blocked.”

Mary Evans said the economy both locally and nationally could not afford the disruption on Ipswich's roads when the bridge closes Picture: GREGG BROWNMary Evans said the economy both locally and nationally could not afford the disruption on Ipswich's roads when the bridge closes Picture: GREGG BROWN

She added: “It’s quite clear that a lot of port traffic is coming through Felixstowe from all over the world – it’s not just annoying us, it’s affecting the whole of British commerce.

“We have got to do something more proactive than just waiting for when there is a change in wind speeds or barriers.

“It’s unacceptable to local residents and we cannot afford it locally and nationally every time that road is closed.”

Suffolk Highways said it was expecting more firms to switch from using Dover to Felixstowe after Brexit, which would put more traffic on the A14.

The Orwell Bridge empty during wind closures Picture: HIGHWAYS ENGLANDThe Orwell Bridge empty during wind closures Picture: HIGHWAYS ENGLAND

Suffolk Highways said it was expecting more firms to switch from using Dover to Felixstowe after Brexit, which would put more traffic on the A14.

Highways England, which manages the A14 and Orwell Bridge, has commissioned experts at City, University of London, in October to carry out a nine month aerodynamic study which will determine whether wind breaks can be installed, what the safe wind speeds for travel are, and whether it could remain open to cars during high winds and have high-sided vehicles divert off.

Councillor Jack Owen, the county council’s Labour spokesman for highways, said: “I welcome the news that Suffolk County Council have finally seen sense and have decided to U-turn on their previous position, but I know residents and businesses will be asking why it has taken them so long.

“After the recent closures of the Orwell Bridge, my colleague, Cllr Jack Abbott, wrote to Cllr Evans, urging her to consider new measures that can be implemented immediately.

Labour transport spokesman Jack Owen has welcomed plans for a proactive approach Picture: SUFFOLK LABOUR GROUPLabour transport spokesman Jack Owen has welcomed plans for a proactive approach Picture: SUFFOLK LABOUR GROUP

“It seems that this has prompted a rethink and I look forward to receiving further detail from Cllr Evans about her plans.

“It is clear that these closures are having an intolerable impact on residents, employees and business, not just in and around Ipswich, crippling the whole town every time the bridge shuts, but across the whole of Britain as freight and cargo also comes to a complete standstill.

“I hope that Cllr Evans keeps to her New Year resolution and delivers on these changes as soon as possible.”

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