Highways England to answer questions on Orwell Bridge closures at committee meeting

The Orwell Bridge. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The Orwell Bridge. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Highways England is set to answer some key questions on Orwell Bridge closures next week, as bosses address councillors in Ipswich on the latest measures.

Traffic on the Orwell Bridge. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Traffic on the Orwell Bridge. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

The bridge has closed three times so far in 2018, and four times this winter as a result of high winds.Highways England, which operates the bridge, has been working on a revised protocol which is set to be published imminently, which has been addressing some of the problems bridge closures cause.

Among those are the traffic standstills caused around Ipswich as all traffic is diverted off the A14 and through the town, as well as the economic impact it brings.

In January, Ipswich Central chairman Terry Baxter said one bridge closure had cost the town £1million in lost revenue and disruption, according to Ipswich Central analysis.

In October Highways England gave a presentation at Ipswich Borough Council’s overview and scrutiny committee on latest protocol revisions, and has accepted an invitation to return on Thursday’s committee meeting next week.

The committee’s vice-chairwoman Sandra Gage has sent a series of key questions to Highways England, which it will address in next week’s meeting.

She said: “After the second bridge closure in January, many Ipswich residents, and businesses asked why the bridge had to be closed for so long, and why does Ipswich have to put up with hours of traffic gridlock?

“Whilst nobody disputes the need for the bridge to close in extreme weather conditions, extended bridge closures cost the Ipswich economy millions of pounds, and brings our town to a standstill.”

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She added: “[I have] invited Highways England to come to next week’s public meeting of the committee on March 1.

“They have accepted and I hope they will be able to explain how they are listening to Ipswich residents and businesses and will reduce the frequency and impact in Ipswich, of any future bridge closures.”

Among the questions to be addressed are whether any impact studies have taken place from the most recent closures, what measures from the new protocol have already been used in the latest closures and what has been decided regarding alternative routes and signs for these.