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Poll/Gallery: Answers are being demanded after onion spill on A14 causes traffic misery in Ipswich

PUBLISHED: 16:22 04 October 2012

Traffic queueing near Junction 54 on the A14 due to the onion spill.

Traffic queueing near Junction 54 on the A14 due to the onion spill.

Archant

AN MP today demanded answers following a day of misery which caused havoc for motorists across Ipswich and Felixstowe.

No need for northern bypass, MP says

IPSWICH MP Ben Gummer dismissed the idea of looking again at a northern bypass for Ipswich.

The bypass would link the A14 north of Ipswich with the A12 in Martlesham.

“We are not going to have enough money to build something as expensive as the northern bypass and that is if you can get the consent of villagers,” he said.

“When this was last mooted there was such a determined campaign against it, it was politically impossible.”

Ipswich Borough councillor Philip Smart, transport portfolio holder, also questioned whether an initiative such as the northern bypass would have stopped the traffic delays seen in Ipswich yesterday.

Mr Smart added: “My own feeling is that what we have got here are accidents caused by lorries in both cases and that really, long term, we should be looking at putting more goods on rail.”

Around one million extra lorries a year will be using the A14 when the Port of Felixstowe completes the next phase of its expansion – expected in the next decade providing the economy improves – to create more deepwater berths at the southern end of the port. At present more than 4,500 trucks visit every day – in and out – to unload or collect containers.

As well as the misery for drivers yesterday, the gridlock also caused problems for businesses and shops in the town centre.

Paul Clement, chief executive of IP Central, said: “It’s hugely inconvenient and there is no question that something like this will damage the economy of a town.

“It is important that we see them as an unfortunate coincidence – it’s not the norm – it’s just one of those things.”

On one of the worst 24 hours in the history of our fragile road network, jaded motorists faced unprecedented delays after two accidents on the A14.

The chaos began at 6.50am when a lorry overturned near the Orwell Bridge, shedding its load of onions across both carriageways.

Police closed three lanes – the entire westbound carriageway and lane two heading in the opposite direction – for seven-and-a-half hours, flooding traffic into a gridlocked Ipswich.

A spokesman for the constabulary said the delay was caused by the need to conduct skid tests on the stretch of road after the onions had been collected.

But after finally fully reopening the bridge at 2.42pm, police officers were forced to close the same section 18 minutes later when three lorries collided on the westbound carriageway, close to the Seven Hills roundabout.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer – who himself was caught up in heavy traffic in Nacton Road – today questioned the length of time it took to reopen the A14.

He said he will be speaking to the Highways Agency and the police.

Referring to the time it took to conduct the clean-up operation following the onion spill, Mr Gummer said: “What I want to know is was this cleared up as quickly as it could have been? Because it happened early in the morning and it is not like people were hurt.”

The Highways Agency said the westbound carriageway would be closed overnight at the Seven Hills roundabout.

The day of motoring misery was triggered when a 50-tonne lorry overturned close to the Shell garage at Nacton, around 500 yards before the Orwell Bridge.

One eye-witness told The Star: “It looks as though the lorry has left the garage to rejoin the carriageway and shed its load as it went over.”

Closing three lanes of the Orwell Bridge had a disastrous knock-on effect for all other routes into Ipswich.

Traffic was diverted off the A14 at Nacton, snaking through Ransomes Europark and hitting Nacton Road, Landseer Road and Felixstowe Road with Colchester Road also affected.

Meanwhile in Wherstead Road traffic inched towards the town centre as frustrated motorists were forced off the A14 before the Orwell Bridge at Wherstead.

Roadworks in the one-way system at Fore Street and at the Civic Drive, Princes Street roundabout exacerbated the problems.

Star reader Norman Salmon, who spent more than an hour travelling from Epsom Drive, off Henley Road to the Riverside Clinic in Landseer Road, said if an ambulance had needed to get a patient suffering a heart attack to Papworth Hospital they might not have made it in time.

The 74-year-old, who has travelled to the Cambridgeshire hospital for heart treatment, said: “Why can’t the borough and county councillors and MPs get together and do something about the issue?

“What if an ambulance had needed to get someone who was critically ill to Papworth? There were cars all over the place, there is no way they could have got through.

“It was chaos. What about fire engines? Someone could have been burning to death and fire crews might not have been able to get through.”

Police say two people were hurt in the second incident at the Seven Hills roundabout.

The air ambulance was dispatched to the scene.

A police spokesman said one person received life-changing injuries to his leg, while a second patient was treated for a broken arm.

A spokesman for the force defended the time it took to clear the mess, citing safety issues as their main priority.

“It was not just a case of recovering the lorry, which can take a long time in itself, but picking up all the onions as well.

“Once the road was cleared we had to carry out a standard skid test to ensure the road surface is safe for vehicles to drive over.”

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