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Did better preparations ease congestion after Orwell Bridge closure?

PUBLISHED: 16:59 24 February 2017

The traffic built up around Ipswich during Storm Doris. Picture: PAUL GEATER

The traffic built up around Ipswich during Storm Doris. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Archant

Council and highways authority officials insisted that better warnings and other preparations eased the pressure on roads around Ipswich after the closure of Orwell Bridge yesterday.

But Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore said more still needed to be done to try to ease problems when the bridge is closed in the future.

The bridge was shut from late morning until 8.30pm last night as the region was battered by Storm Doris – but there had been warnings about the high winds to come for several days earlier.

Officials from Suffolk County Council said this meant there were fewer vehicles on the road than normal because many had taken advice and postponed journeys.

Those who did use the roads found their trips took longer than normal – but traffic jams were not as severe as when the bridge closed in November with no advanced warning.

A spokesman said: “When the bridge is closed for safety reasons it is going to cause problems. No one can do anything to get rid of that. You can’t build a road overnight.

“But by giving warning in advance people could take alternative arrangements – working from home, travelling by a different route, or postponing a journey and it seems that some people did that because the congestion was not as bad as it has been in the past.”

Mr Passmore said he would be asking Highways England again whether the bridge could be kept open longer when there are heavy winds – albeit with further restrictions.

He said: “Would it be possible for the road to be kept open with lower speed limits, or for high-sided vehicles to be banned while others continued to use it?

“I suspect that on Thursday it would have had to be closed at the height of the storm, but it could have stayed open for two or three hours extra hours with those restrictions.”

And Mr Passmore said it was still necessary to look at other solutions for when the bridge is closed: “We have to look at long-term alternatives including a northern by-pass or a tunnel, although I suspect the cost of that would be prohibitive.”

But the regular talks had proved useful: “There was far better communication about the bridge closure this time which did ease things a bit.”

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