Family of Archie Hall propose safety features to help stop Orwell Bridge deaths

Archie Hall

Archie Hall - Credit: Archant

Three Suffolk MPs are to take safety concerns about the Orwell Bridge to the boss of Highways England in a bid to reduce the number of deaths at the site.

Archie Hall

Archie Hall - Credit: Archant

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey and James Cartlidge, from South Suffolk, are to meet the chief executive of Highways England to demand improved safety measures.

At the weekend Mr Gummer met the family of Archie Hall, who fell to his death from the bridge last year.

Mr Gummer said he had been very impressed by the family and was determined to ensure safety was improved on the bridge.

He said: “They are an enormously brave family and you cannot help but admire the way they have taken on this issue following the tragedy they have suffered.

“They have done significant research into the issue and the solution they are proposing is both elegant and practical.”

The MPs are determined that the safety on the bridge should be improved – that it should be much more difficult to commit suicide from it.

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Mr Gummer said: “The three of us will be meeting the chief executive of Highways England to say that they have to look at finding a solution to this. It cannot just be left as it is.”

Archie’s mother Laura, from Holbrook, said she had been encouraged by the meeting – at which she showed Mr Gummer some potential solutions to the problem.

She said: “I don’t think we had expected too much because we have heard from Highways England that there is nothing they can do, but Mr Gummer was really interested and seems really keen to take this on with his colleagues. I showed him pictures and we talked about the Grafton Bridge in Auckland in New Zealand which has had quite elegant barriers put up since 2003 and that has stopped the suicides there at a stroke.

“And I know people say that if people don’t go to the bridge they will do something else, but that simply isn’t true. The statistics show that if something like this is done there is no increase in the suicide rate elsewhere.”

Archie, who was 20, died after falling from the bridge in November last year.

He had returned home to Holbrook from Lincoln University where he had been suffering from mental health issues.

At an inquest last month coroner Nigel Parsley recorded a verdict of death by misadventure because there was no firm evidence that Archie had planned to take his own life.

He said he was so concerned about the safety of the Orwell Bridge that he would be raising the issue under the Coroners’ Regulations to try to put pressure on Highways England to take further measures to make it more difficult to fall from it.

We have launched a campaign to try to persuade the authorities to take urgent action to improve safety on the bridge.