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Revealed: What caused 249 hours of delays on Orwell Bridge?

PUBLISHED: 12:45 09 January 2020

The Orwell Bridge is prone to closures due to wind Picture: ARCHANT

The Orwell Bridge is prone to closures due to wind Picture: ARCHANT

Motorists were forced to endure 249 hours of delays on the Orwell Bridge over five years after 60 accidents, 73 breakdowns, seven closures as a result of high winds and four fires.

As well as 23 closures connected to weather conditions, there has been 60 car crashes, 73 breakdowns and four fires in five years Picture: ARCHANTAs well as 23 closures connected to weather conditions, there has been 60 car crashes, 73 breakdowns and four fires in five years Picture: ARCHANT

Since January 1 2015, Highways England, which is responsible for the A14, recorded more than 500 'incidents' on the bridge, including planned roadworks, road traffic collisions and closures due to high winds.

In the last five years the bridge was closed completely 23 times, with drivers affected by 73 breakdowns, 60 car crashes and 11 pedestrians on the road, as well as four fires.

A Highways England spokesman said: "Safety of all road users is our priority and closing Orwell Bridge during inclement weather such as high winds is not a decision that we take lightly and is always done in liaison between our emergency planners, the emergency services, the Met Office (for weather related incidents) and local authority emergency planners.

"We also recognise that in delivering planned work to maintain or improve either the bridge structure or its road surface, there is never an ideal time to carry out our works.

Ipswich's MP Tom Hunt has called for Highways England to 'pull their finger out' Picture: PAUL GEATERIpswich's MP Tom Hunt has called for Highways England to 'pull their finger out' Picture: PAUL GEATER

"We do try and minimise the inconvenience by completing as much work as possible overnight."

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About 25% of all recorded incidents on the bridge are roadworks, for which Highways England does not have any data on the length of any disruption.

The longest closure recorded by Highways England was more than nine hours as a result of Storm Doris which brought high winds in 2017

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has already said the Highways England need to "pull their finger out" in their bid to find a solution to the closures.

"It remains my position that I do not believe the bridge needs to be closed to all vehicles when there are windy conditions," said Mr Hunt.

"I can see, and so can the public, that there must be a common sense solution to this, which could be redirecting high-sided vehicles at those times."

An aerodynamic study into the wind closures on the Orwell Bridge has been completed, however a report of the study has been delayed and will not be published until the end of January.

Just under 5% of all recorded incidents on the bridge in the last five years have been weather related, but they account for 25% of cases where the entire bridge has been closed.

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