30th anniversary of the opening of the by-pass that changed Ipswich forever by taking traffic around town and over Orwell Bridge

The new bridge over Bramford Road takes shape.

The new bridge over Bramford Road takes shape. - Credit: citizenside.com

It is 30 years since the face of Ipswich was changed completely with the opening of the final section of the town’s southern bypass.

Charles Whitfield King returns to the A14 bridge over Bramford Road where he took a shot of the cons

Charles Whitfield King returns to the A14 bridge over Bramford Road where he took a shot of the construction in the early 80's. - Credit: Su Anderson

It took traffic using the A45 (as it was then called) away from the town and the Valley Road/Colchester Road/Heath Road route to the west of the town, linking up with the southern section of the by-pass from Seven Hills to Copdock Mill over the Orwell Bridge which had opened in late 1982.

On October 3, 1985, it was the final section of the road that opened – and it immediately made a huge difference to the town.

But to get to this stage there had been a great deal of work – and this was recorded by local photographer Charles Whitfield King over the previous two-and-a-half years.

He recorded the construction of the new bridge for the bypass over the main rail line between Ipswich and Bramford.

This work was carried out shortly before the line was electrified – and the new bridge included fittings that the wires could be inserted into about a year later.

Work on the western section of the bypass had started in early 1984. Between the opening of the southern section in December 1982 and early 1984 the eastern section – the A12 bypass from Martlesham to Seven Hills – had been completed.

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This was the last piece in the jigsaw. Yet within a few years there were already congestion problems, especially at the Copdock Mill roundabout where the A12 met the A45.

Whenever there is any problem on the road, especially the closure of the Orwell Bridge, there are queues on the bypass which very quickly have knock-on effects in the town centre.

As well as the Copdock Mill junction, there are also frequent queues at the Nacton, Seven Hills, and Whitehouse junctions. The road, now the A14, is frequently congested and there are calls for major improvements around the town to try to keep traffic moving.

The road and its junctions have not changed at all over the last 30 years – apart from traffic lights being installed on the Copdock Mill roundabout.

Now there is talk of eventually building a full grade-separated junction at Copdock Mill, but the cost has been put at more than £100m. When the five-mile western bypass was built in 1984-85 the whole road cost £15m.

Mr Whitfield-King remembers that the road itself changed traffic in the town – but not for ever.

“I remember how quiet it seemed along Valley Road and Chevallier Street in the years after the by-pass opened, but now they’re as busy as they were in 1985,” he said.