Haughley Bends transformation under way

AS work progresses today on the multi-million pound scheme to transform one of Suffolk's most notorious road blackspots the landscape around the site is changing dramatically.

AS work progresses today on the multi-million pound scheme to transform one of Suffolk's most notorious road blackspots the landscape around the site is changing dramatically. REBECCA LEFORT spoke to the people in charge of the project about technology, safety, and badgers.

SUFFOLK'S landscape is being altered dramatically today.

These pictures reveal the full extent of the work being undertaken as part of a multi-million pound scheme to replace one of the most dangerous sections of the A14.

The £32million project to straighten the Haughley Bends got the green-light earlier this year and work started at the site in June.

The plan involves building a new 2.3-mile stretch of two-lane dual carriageway between Haughley New Street and Stowmarket.

A two-level junction will also be built as part of the project and it is hoped the new junction will provide safer access to the A14 from the villages of Haughley, Haughley New Street and Harleston.

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Today the work is on track and the new road should be opening next summer with the complete project, including the current carriageways transformed into a local road and a non-motorised section, due to be finished by the end of 2008.

The project manager, Roger Hawkins, said the project was on schedule.

He said: “We have done about 30per cent of the earth work, which is transforming the land to new levels.

“We will be starting on putting in the structures quite soon too. No concrete has been laid yet but we're starting to lay stone for the road surface.”

Some of the work is being carried out using cutting-edge technology which has rarely been used on construction projects before.

GPS (global positioning system) devices in each digger's cab are being utilised to help with the earth work by pinpointing the exact depths diggers should reach, without the need for manual measurements.

Mr Hawkins added: “The new technology has been very useful. It saves time and is more accurate.”

What do you think of the A14 improvement scheme? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

HAUGHLEY Bends have been associated with tragic accidents for many years.

And since the early 1980s John Prigg has been among those campaigning for improvements.

The 80-year-old pushed for the installation of the 50mph speed restriction on the road, which has cut the number of accidents, but which was always seen as a temporary move until a new road was built.

Mr Prigg, a member of Haughley Parish Council for 35 years, said: “I started campaigning because it was dangerous, there were so many accidents there that something needed to be done.

“There used to be several fatalities a year but since the 50mph limit was introduced there have only been two that I can think of, and they were both pedestrians.

“So it has got better, but it needed to because we now have 48,000 vehicles use the road every day.

“These improvements will make the road safer and it will be easier for people living in Haughley to get onto the road. We can't wait for it to be finished.”

ROAD building projects may not generally be considered 'green', but the developers at the Haughley site are hoping to change that.

They have gone out of their way to ensure environmental concerns are at the forefront of everyone's minds as the work goes ahead.

Roger Hawkins, project manager, said: “We are trying to think of the environment where possible and have done things to protect it.

“We will be planting trees and shrubs to help the new road blend into the landscape.”

One of the new features is the extension of an existing tunnel which allows animals to cross the road.

The tunnel, a rectangular box, reaches from one side of the road to the other.

And now workers have added a mammal ledge for animals such as badgers to use to cross the road.

To help support the eco-system of the area developers also had an ecologist on site at the start of the project.

Mr Hawkins added: “While the ecologist was here we moved some slow-worms away from the site.

“There were also some nesting skylarks in a cornfield so we waited for them to be ready before we moved them and did the work.”

He explained another aspect of the work was “false-cutting”, creating an embankment which will protect residents of Haughley from the road.

The embankment is steep on the A14-side but slopes gradually on the other side, so as not to cause disruption to the farmers.

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