Icy blast brings town to a standstill

Five inches and the town is brought to a standstill!IPSWICH: Five inches of snow and the town ground to a standstill!Despite all the promises of just 10 months ago that lessons would be learned from the debacle of the February's snowstorm, when the snow returned this week the town ground to a snail's pace.

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IPSWICH: Five inches of snow and the town ground to a standstill!

Despite all the promises of just 10 months ago that lessons would be learned from the debacle of the February's snowstorm, when the snow returned this week the town ground to a snail's pace.

Three factors combined to make it a misery for travellers trying to get home.

Late night shopping brought more people into the town centre later than normal.

Gritters were unable to stop the town's hills from freezing up - Bishop's Hill was particularly treacherous and many motorists abandoned their vehicles.

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The closure of the eastbound lane of the Orwell Bridge after lorries became trapped forced yet more traffic into the town centre.

The combination of the three factors meant people were taking an hour to complete journeys they normally do in 10-15 minutes and some decided to abandon their vehicles altogether and finish their trip on foot.

Outside Ipswich the situation was even worse - hundreds of motorists were forced to spend the night in their cars on the A12 between Copdock and the Essex border because the road was blocked with abandoned or stationary vehicles.

And the A14 eastbound became impassable after vehicles were unable to get any grip on the approach to the Orwell Bridge.

The government's Highways Agency is responsible for keeping traffic moving on trunk roads, and said its gritters were unable to get out and do their work because of congestion problems.

However, it seems certain that they will have to explain the problems to their bosses in Whitehall - including junior transport minister and Ipswich MP Chris Mole.

The weather could not have come as a surprise - as early as Monday of this week there was a long-range warning of heavy snow on Thursday night and Friday.

By Thursday morning the Met Office had firmed this up and was talking about a 60 per cent chance of major disruption from 9pm and by the lunchtime they were warning that the bad weather would start by 6pm - a forecast which turned out to be devastatingly accurate.

South east Suffolk suffered more serious disruption than any other part of the UK, although the whole of the south east of England was affected by the snowfall.

Back in February the government and county councils had an inquiry after snow caused huge problems on roads across the country.

This time there were no problems with the amount of salt and grit available - the issue seems to have been getting it to the right place at the right time.

Highways Agency officials said there was not enough traffic churning up the gritted snow - and that it was not possible to get their gritting lorries to the right place because of congestion on the roads.

But they now seem certain to be asked to look at other ways of getting the grit on the road surface - possibly from roadside dumps that could be accessed by workers with shovels.