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Automated barriers, new closure points and multiple diversions under consideration for Orwell Bridge closure plans

PUBLISHED: 09:57 27 October 2017 | UPDATED: 13:20 27 October 2017

Plans are being discussed as to how the town's traffic situation could be improved when the Orwell Bridge is closed. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Plans are being discussed as to how the town's traffic situation could be improved when the Orwell Bridge is closed. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Archant

A raft of additional measures are being discussed to improve the traffic impact of an Orwell Bridge closure, with an automated closure, quicker re-opening and continued use of the bridge for certain vehicle types all tabled for discussion.

Police at the scene of an accident which closed the Orwell Bridge last week. Picture: SUFFOLK POLICEPolice at the scene of an accident which closed the Orwell Bridge last week. Picture: SUFFOLK POLICE

Speaking at the Ipswich Borough Council overview and scrutiny committee last night, James Jackson from Highways England gave an update on some of the measures which have already been put in place, and others which are being debated.

A notification cascade was implemented in January and has been used three times this year already, which alerts partners such as police and local authorities of any bridge closure, or likely bridge closure, quicker.

In the event of a closure from high winds, the bridge could previously only be re-opened once winds had dropped below 30mph, but will re-open at 45mph.

Mr Jackson said the “bridge was often closed for longer than it needed to be” and added that opening sooner when it was safe to do so meant the closure time was lessened.

The Orwell Bridge, on the outskirts of Ipswich. Picture: MICK WEBBThe Orwell Bridge, on the outskirts of Ipswich. Picture: MICK WEBB

A dedicated website has been launched which provides updates on the bridge’s traffic flow, including live CCTV camera feeds and MET Office forecasts.

Motorists can also sign up to email subscriptions and notifications of a bridge closure.

Mr Jackson said that the website could be updated within five minutes of an unexpected closure happening.

Digital message signs will alert motorists as far south as the M25 when the bridge is closed, with signs further north than previously also displaying the warning.

Significantly, early discussions are also underway in whether certain types of vehicle can continue to use the bridge in the event of a high wind closure.

Specifically, it would look at whether cars can continue to use the bridge while lorries are diverted.

It is understood that an investigation into this is at an early stage.

Other measures include updated Samaritans phones on the bridge, which are being completed this month, and upgrades to the CCTV system.

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin said he would like to see multiple diversion possibilities investigated. Picture: SEANA HUGHESIpswich MP Sandy Martin said he would like to see multiple diversion possibilities investigated. Picture: SEANA HUGHES

A counter terrorism inspection is due to take place next year.

An automated closure system is currently being designed by Kier which will enable automatic barriers to be installed and closed at the push of the button, rather than sending people out to physical shut the bridge.

“It is very early stages and I wouldn’t expect any movement on this for the next year or two at least, but the design is underway,” Mr Jackson said.

A trial has been taking place to reduce the length of the A14 that is closed.

Previously the road would be closed from junction 55 for Copdock and junction 58 for Bucklesham, but a trial has been underway to limit the closure to junction 56 for Wherstead and 57 for Nacton.

Mr Jackson said: “It keeps Copdock open and it seems to have worked fairly well.

“It doesn’t affect the diversion route we currently have.”

A feasibility study is being conducted by Kier in preventing suicides which is due to be finished before Christmas.

Ipswich borough councillor George Debman, who had been leading a task and finish group on the matter, said: “I can see light at the end of the tunnel.

“The automated barriers I think that is a damn good idea.”

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin said he would like to see multiple diversion possibilities investigated, which Highways England said it would consider.

To view the new Orwell Bridge page, visit the website here.

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