Does travel chaos caused by A14 Orwell Bridge closure reinforce the need for a northern bypass around Ipswich?
PUBLISHED: 17:52 22 November 2016 | UPDATED: 18:06 22 November 2016
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Fresh calls have been made for a northern bypass in Ipswich after the decision to close the Orwell Bridge because of strong winds left Ipswich gridlocked yesterday morning.
After 80mph winds were recorded on the Orwell Bridge on Monday evening Highways England opted to close the route between Copdock and Seven Hills.
But with the closure leaving the town at a standstill, renewed calls have been made by motorists to develop a northern bypass.
The long-running issue re-emerged in March this year after a feasibility study was launched by the leaders of Suffolk’s local authorities to explore available options.
And within a few hours of the traffic crisis gripping Ipswich, an online petition was launched for the bypass to help ease the pressure on the Orwell Bridge and town centre routes.
Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said the traffic issues highlighted the need for both a northern bypass and wet dock crossing.
“People are understandably incredibly frustrated by the gridlock and the traffic has been bad over the last few days, but this is the worst it’s been for a while.
“This makes an eloquent argument for why we need infrastructure in the town, and there are two routes of that – the first is the wet dock crossing and the second is the northern route – we need both.
“Of the two it [wet dock crossing] will have a greater impact in towns like this than a northern route.
“But we do need to improve infrastructure to the north of the town and that’s why I am working with borough council and county council to agree a solution for a new route as soon as possible.”
Suffolk County Council highways bosses said they recognised the frustrations of motorists, and had committed £5million over the next two years for traffic flow improvement
James Finch, cabinet member for highways and transport said: “When Highways England needs to close the Orwell Bridge for safety reasons, traffic inevitably needs to find alternative routes and congestion increases around Ipswich. Taking such a decision to close the bridge for an extended period of time is a very rare occurrence and is done reluctantly to ensure the safety of all road users and Highways England always informs us.
“Over the next two years, around £5 million will be invested in local traffic flow improvements on the main roads into Ipswich. There is also funding of almost £100 million for the delivery of a new crossing of the River Orwell. Working closely with neighbouring district and borough councils, Suffolk County Council is currently carrying out a feasibility study into options for a potential relief road to the north of Ipswich.”
Mr Finch said ongoing work in short, medium and long term traffic flow improvements was underway, but also urged people to consider alternative options.
“There will always be busier road conditions at peak times as more people want to use the road network to get to work and school,” he said. “It is important that we all consider the transport we use for such journeys. Often there are alternatives options to the car when it comes to making short journeys including walking, cycling and Park and Ride routes. We are currently investigating potential short, medium, and longer term highway improvements to address some areas of congestion in the Ipswich area.
It is a move that has been backed by Ipswich Borough Council’s executive, who said it was a “matter of urgency.”
Borough council leader David Ellesmere said: “We pushed for this study to be undertaken and provided the funding for it. Today’s gridlock and the delays and frustration it has caused for thousands of people shows the need for a northern bypass for Ipswich. The work on the initial feasibility study now needs to be completed as a matter of urgency. In the meantime, I would urge people to sign this petition to demonstrate widespread public backing for a bypass.”
To view or sign the petition, visit www.change.org/p/ben-gummer-northern-bypass-for-ipswich/
All you need to know about Ipswich’s proposed northern bypass
Is the northern bypass a realistic project? MP Ben Gummer has said Ipswich needs both a northern bypass and the wet dock crossing. But while funding for the wet dock crossing is secured, a bypass would be an even greater cost - and it’s unclear where that cash would come from. But there is seemingly a growing feeling that something else needs to be done about the volume of traffic coming through the town.
What roads would it connect to? A feasibility study is underway at the moment to find the best route. But one of the proposals being mooted is a full dual-carriageway bypass from the A14 Whitehouse junction in Ipswich to the A12/A1214 roundabout in Martlesham.
What are the main issues? Funding is obviously a huge issue. And when the idea of the road was mooted in the 1990s, it created much controversy. The proposed road would have run through the attractive Fynn Valley and would have run parallel to the East Suffolk rail line for part of its length.
It would have affected the villages of Westerfield, Tuddenham, Playford, and Bealings – and the countryside near Kesgrave. When the road was proposed it prompted strong opposition from people living in the area.
What would it cost and who would pay? While the proposal is still only an idea and a long way off any actual work, the cost is not yet known. But Mr Gummer himself suggested it could require £200million – double that of the wet dock crossing.
Are there any issues with landowners? Currently, it’s too early to say whether any landowner issues would arise – but it’s inevitable. The route would cross land in both Ipswich and Suffolk Coastal’s remit, not to mention the involvement with private landowners.