Reaction: How well have Highways England’s Orwell Bridge plans been received?
PUBLISHED: 17:27 23 January 2020 | UPDATED: 17:27 23 January 2020
The next steps for work to reduce wind closures of the Orwell Bridge have been met with frustration, after initial findings failed to come up with concrete proposals.
A presentation published on Wednesday afternoon summarising Highways England's nine-month aerodynamic study said it would pursue further reviews for a number of options.
That includes more detailed studies in 40mph speed limits, single-file traffic on the inside lanes, only closing the westbound carriageway and adding parapets.
READ MORE: Long-awaited Highways England Orwell Bridge study emerges
But the news has been met with dismay from locals who felt that the study should have come up with more immediate recommendations.
Ipswich Vision chairman Terry Hunt said: "It's good to see the findings of the work that they have done so far, but it's disappointing that the report appears to contain no firm recommendations - and no clear timeline - as to how to solve this major issue for Ipswich.
"The different recommendations they have come up with all make sense but now they say they have got to do more work on them to make sure they are appropriate.
"With each bridge closure Ipswich suffers a devastating economic impact amounting to something like £1m a day, and major reputational damage.
"I would ask Highways England to move to their next phase very quickly so that we are able to introduce whatever measures are deemed appropriate well before the next danger point, which will be next winter,
"I realise that safety is paramount and that has to be everyone's first concern but this has been going on for a long time now and I really hope some pace can be injected into the process."
A poll held on this newspaper's website on Thursday resulted in 497 people responding, with 39% backing wind breaks as the way forward.
Of the remaining options, 33% wanted lower speed limit work pursued, 24% felt one-lane traffic would be best and just 3% felt a westbound only closure was the way forward.
Suffolk Chamber of Commerce
A spokesman from Suffolk Chamber of Commerce said: "Although we are pleased to see Highways England have some recommendations as to how to keep the Orwell Bridge open during high winds, we are very disappointed in the delay and lack of progress made to date. It looks as if further studies and research now needs to be undertaken, all of which take time.
"Businesses and residents alike are unanimous in calling for Highways England to come up with a solution urgently.
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"We alongside our MPs and local authorities will be pushing Highways England to implement a solution towards the end of 2020 before another winter of disruption."
Suffolk County Council Highways
Councillor Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council's Conservative cabinet member for highways and transport, said: "We thank Highways England for sharing their report with us.
"The effects of wind-related closures on the Orwell Bridge are well known and incredibly frustrating, so as the local highways authority, we are interested to see the results of the recommendations in the long-awaited Highways England study, that has concluded that it is likely something can be done during bad weather.
"It is imperative that potential measures are concluded as swiftly as possible so we don't have the same issues in the future.
"However, the closing of the Orwell Bridge is not the only issue we have in this area. Suffolk County Council will continue to explore options with partners to improve traffic flows around Ipswich during incidents.
"Also, more needs to be done to improve our road infrastructure in Ipswich and around our county. This includes the A14, which is well known for its notorious black spots and pinch points.
"Funding and government support are essential, and I welcome the support from Local MPs for further investment from Highways England and the Department for Transport to ensure we can create a better road network to serve Suffolk."
Suffolk County Council Labour
Sarah Adams, Labour group leader at the county council, said: "Disappointingly, it looks like this much anticipated report does not move us much closer to a workable solution.
"Highways England has simply put forward a list of proposals which will now need to be studied and tested, meaning the bridge will continue to shut for the foreseeable future.
"It makes you wonder what they have been working on for the last year and whether they are taking the issue seriously enough.
"Unfortunately, Tom Hunt, Ipswich's new Tory MP, betrays how little he knows about the town.
"These traffic problems have been going on for years, but a report he backs will simply create more delays. Anyone who has spent any amount of time on Ipswich's roads already knows all the issues set out in the report.
"The residents of Ipswich were hoping for common sense solutions that could be implemented immediately and instead they got more delay. This simply isn't good enough."
Highways England have been approached for comment on the timeline for the next phase of work, but responded only with a statement it issued in October: "While we appreciate the high level of public interest in the issue, we needed to first fully understand the technical information within the draft report provided to us by City University so that we can accurately present the findings, which we hope to present next month."
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