A14/A12: shock closure statistics

THE A14 and A12 are Suffolk's busiest roads and when they are closed because of crashes it not only brings chaos for motorists, but also a huge impact on the county's economy.

THE A14 and A12 are Suffolk's busiest roads and when they are closed because of crashes it not only brings chaos for motorists, but also a huge impact on the county's economy.

In the next two decades the amount of traffic will increase dramatically - and solutions need to be found.

RICHARD CORNWELL investigates

CRASHES have completely closed the busy A14 and A12 roads in Suffolk for more than 340 hours in the past two years - a staggering 14 days in total.


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In addition, the two main road arteries, which are the lifeblood of the county's traffic network, have also suffered more than 300 hours of being cut down from two lanes to one because of accidents.

Highways Agency figures released after a Freedom of Information request by the Evening Star show there have been more than 150 accidents - equating to nearly one every four days - which have partially or totally closed the two roads in Suffolk in the past two years.

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Hundreds of thousands of motorists have been caught up in the ensuing traffic chaos which often leaves towns and villages clogged by traffic as drivers seek alternative routes.

Last week the road was closed twice.

The A14 Orwell Bridge was shut for more than three hours after a pile-up involving a car, lorry and a van, which caused gridlock around Ipswich.

The following day there was more chaos and six-mile tailbacks after two cars crashed at Higham on the A14.

Suffolk police said the top priority in dealing with any crash must be getting medical help to casualties and freeing trapped people and it is not always a quick or easy process.

Then detailed investigations have to be held into the cause of the accident in case of a prosecution, coroner's inquest or future safety to prevent similar incidents - processes which take hours.

Sometimes delays in setting up diversions and directing traffic are caused because Highways Agency staff are caught up in the tailbacks as they try to reach the scene as do not have blue light emergency access.

Most of the incidents have affected the A14 and the majority have involved lorries - fuelling further the arguments for increasing railfreight and getting more trucks off the roads, especially with one million more trucks set to use the road every year when Felixstowe port expands.

The majority of the longer closures, when the road has been completely blocked in one direction, have involved HGVs, with fatal accidents closing it for anywhere between seven and 12 hours.

Of the 300-plus hours when incidents have blocked one lane, the vast majority of have been closures of the A14 Port of Felixstowe Road during Operation Stack when lorries are parked on the dual carriageway when the dock is closed due to high winds.

John Pearman, divisional director of traffic operations for the Highways Agency, said it was not possible to tell how much the closures had cost.

He said: “If the incident has resulted in damage to the network, typically the need for resurfacing or safety fence repairs, then our contractor is paid to carry out the work and the agency seeks to recover those costs from the insurance company covering the driver.”

N Is the A14 closed too often and for too long? What do you think is the solution? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

May 14, 2005: Eastbound carriageway closed at Haughley Bends after fatal accident involving one car - road closed for eight hours.

May 23, 2005: Westbound at Claydon after accident involving two lorries and a car. Lorry driver trapped 90 minutes and had to have foot amputated to allow his release. Road closed ten hours.

June 20, 2005: A14 exit near A1156 closed for three hours 42 minutes after multi-vehicle pile-up.

August 2, 2005: Car drove into the back of a lorry on the A14 at Stowmarket, just east of A1120 junction - one lane closed nine hours 15 minutes.

September 5, 2005: Parcel lorry overturned at Trimley interchange - road blocked for four and a half hours.

September 7, 2005: Road closed for 12 hours after lorry driver died after his vehicle collided with the wall of the Nacton railway bridge.

October 24, 2005: Trimley interchange - lorry overturned and damaged 100 metres of crash barriers. Road closed 23 hours.

June 13, 2006: Lorry and milk float in collision on A14 at Levington causing glass on carriageway - closed three hours 15 minutes.

July 24, 2006: HGV overturned on Copdock A14 sliproad - driver trapped three hours and road closed for eight hours.

July 28, 2006: Driver killed in four-vehicle crash at Sproughton after car fuel tank ruptured and caught alight - road closed eight hours.

January 16, 2007: Driver killed near Bury St Edmunds - road closed seven hours 15 minutes.

March 22, 2007: Outside lanes of each carriageway closed for six hours after lorry overturned near Woolpit and caused substantial damage to safety fencing.

DELAYS on the A14 and A12 are incredibly frustrating for motorists sat in the tailbacks - but the impact of a road closure goes far further than those caught up in the immediate chaos.

The impact on business throughout the area is huge.

Deliveries are delayed, staff cannot get to meetings or are late for work and shoppers are deterred and go elsewhere.

It is not just the dual carriageway that is affected. An A14 crash can bring gridlock to Ipswich and cause chaos in other communities as people search for alternative routes to escape.

With accidents and closures becoming more frequent, solutions need to be found to keep the traffic moving after an accident and in general to address the congestion and capacity concerns surrounding the county's two busiest roads.

Recent ideas mooted have included tolls on the Orwell Bridge, and the possibility of a second river crossing.

But there is a growing feeling that the best solution is a northern bypass for Ipswich to link to the A12.

The project has been suggested and fought off before, and there are still many political hurdles to overcome this time.

Richard Perkins, a member of the executive committee of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “The chamber is very concerned at the number of closures of the road - the Orwell Bridge and A14 are important locally, regionally and nationally.

“We need to recognise the importance of this infrastructure and when there is a closure there is a significant interruption and disruption to the economy and businesses in the area.

“Improvements are definitely needed to the road - particularly between Blakenham and Felixstowe - and ideas are actively being looked at by councils, the chamber, Haven Gateway Partnership and other organisations.”

A northern bypass was one solution and has been examined in a new report by the Suffolk Development Agency, but there is a lot of work to be done before such a project is accepted as a regional policy and priority and any bid is made for finance.

Mr Perkins said: “We appreciate that when the scheme was suggested before it caused a lot of upset but it is something which now needs to be seriously looked at.”

The cost of such a project would be enormous. But campaigners say if Suffolk is to continue to have a thriving economy, businesses need to be able to guarantee that access to the area is first class.

EXPANSION of Britain's biggest container port will add one million more lorries a year to the A14.

That will be the increase over the next 15 years even if the maximum amount of cargo is moved by rail.

It is said that 46per cent of Britain's imports cross the Orwell Bridge.

At the moment, around 4,000 lorries every day visit Felixstowe port and that will rise by 2,700 when Landguard Terminal and the Dock Basin is redeveloped and working to capacity.

On top of that, the road, which currently caters for around 30,000 vehicles a day, will have to cope with the growing population of the area with thousands of new homes being built in Ipswich and surrounding towns and villages.

Car ownership shows no sign of decreasing despite the growing awareness of green issues, and many of those homes will have two or three cars with a large proportion using the A14 and A12.

The A14 has been dubbed one of the top ten most dangerous roads in the country with more than 300 accidents along its length this year alone.

According to the survey, carried out by keepmoving.co.uk, the majority of the accidents in Suffolk happened eastbound from Sproughton to the Copdock interchange, westbound from Wherstead to the Copdock interchange and westbound from Stowmarket east to Stowmarket west. Each area has had a total of seven incidents so far in 2007.

Most of the accidents on the road however happened along the Cambridge stretch.

The A14, which runs from the port of Felixstowe and stretches to the junction of the M1 and M6, is currently undergoing a £32million improvement scheme at Haughley in an attempt to make the road safer.

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