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New Orwell Bridge closure plan nearing completion with diversion plans set to be included

PUBLISHED: 09:00 25 October 2017

Highways England is putting together a new protocol for the Orwell Bridge. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Highways England is putting together a new protocol for the Orwell Bridge. Picture: GREGG BROWN

A new plan for dealing with Orwell Bridge closures is nearing completion – with details on diversions and how the public is informed set to be included.

Traffic in Ipswich ground to halt after the fatal crash on the Orwell Bridge on Friday morning. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Traffic in Ipswich ground to halt after the fatal crash on the Orwell Bridge on Friday morning. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

During a summit held on Wednesday last week, Highways England updated members of Suffolk County Council, Ipswich Borough Council, Suffolk police and Associated British Ports on progress for its new protocol, while those organisations have been giving feedback during six-monthly meetings.

A spokesman from Highways England said it was applying the “finishing touches” to the new protocol, which will be unveiled with a presentation when it is completed.

Within the new document is expected to be details on how strong winds must be to trigger a bridge closure, why the bridge has to be closed and when it re-opens, what the diversion routes are and how the public and media are informed.

A dedicated webpage is also being set up with travel updates.

The news comes after police closed the bridge for more than eight hours on Friday last week following a fatal road traffic accident.

During last week’s bridge closures, motorists were facing lengthy delays as traffic had to be diverted through Ipswich town centre, causing gridlock on some of the town’s already-busy roads.

Motorists heading into Ipswich from Colchester reported journeys of three-hours, while the bridge is used by thousands of lorries each day to get to and from the Port of Felixstowe.

A Suffolk police spokeswoman said the work carried out on Friday was in line with its usual serious road traffic collision investigation, which differs to its work in helping close the bridge during high winds.

“Police investigation of serious and fatal collisions needs to be carried out in a thorough manner, as initially the scene has to be protected, evidence gathered and witnesses spoken to,” she said.

“Enquiries can take a number of hours to complete, and our duty of care to road users means that roads cannot be reopened until the highway is clear of any hazard that may affect use of the road.”

A high wind protocol for the Orwell Bridge was published in January 2015, but it is understood all affected parties are keen to make improvements from lessons learnt during Storm Doris in February, when high winds forced the bridge to be closed.

On Thursday, an update is to be presented at the IBC strategic overview committee.

Drivers are advised that it is “highly likely” the Orwell Bridge in Suffolk will shut during tomorrow morning’s rush hour amid forecasts of 65mph gusts.

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