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Push for more ‘urgency’ over Orwell Bridge safety measures

PUBLISHED: 20:26 31 October 2020 | UPDATED: 20:26 31 October 2020

Measures to tackle wind closures of the Orwell Bridge are not set to be completed until spring 2021, instead in time for this winter.  Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Measures to tackle wind closures of the Orwell Bridge are not set to be completed until spring 2021, instead in time for this winter. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Charlotte Bond

More urgency is needed in implementing wind reduction measures on the Orwell Bridge, says Ipswich MP as he takes the matter to the Government’s roads minister.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt raised the issue of the Orwell Bridge closures in Parliament, and said the Highways England response was not urgent enough. Picture: PARLIAMENT LIVE TVIpswich MP Tom Hunt raised the issue of the Orwell Bridge closures in Parliament, and said the Highways England response was not urgent enough. Picture: PARLIAMENT LIVE TV

Highways England at the start of 2020 promised measures would be in place in time for winter to implement a 40mph speed limit during high winds, that would allow vehicles to continue using the bridge.

But that is now unlikely to happen before spring of 2021, after Highways England revised the timescales.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt branded the delay “unacceptable” given the project already slipped when the findings of the nine-month aerodynamic study finished in July 2019 were not published until the start of this year,

He has now organised a meeting with roads minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton to push for more urgency in the improvements.

Orwell Bridge closures cause severe tailbacks in and around Ipswich as traffic is diverted off the A14 and through town.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNOrwell Bridge closures cause severe tailbacks in and around Ipswich as traffic is diverted off the A14 and through town. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Mr Hunt, who will meet with Baroness Vere on November 9, said he was also pursuing plans to secure an adjournment debate in the House of Commons.

“I really want the Department for Transport to come down hard on Highways England because their poor performance is costing us dear,” he said.

“That’s why I have set the meeting up with the roads minister.

MORE: Orwell Bridge wind measures delayed to spring 2021

“This end of March timeline [for the 40mph limit to be completed] is unacceptable.

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“The lack of urgency towards the issue is not consistent with how big an issue it is for Ipswich and how many businesses are massively affected.”

According to Highways England’s revised timetable, wind tunnel testing should have now ended and a complete detailed design is to be completed this month.

That will then go out for a statutory three week consultation this month, allowing work to start early in 2021.

MORE: Long-awaited Orwell Bridge measures revealed

Currently the bridge must close when wind speeds exceed 50mph, but by reducing the speed limit from 60mph down to 40mph during high winds, that threshold for closure will be upped to 70mph.

That would have prevented 15 of the 18 wind closures which happened between October 2013 and January 2020.

Highways England has been pursing this as the key measure since it published the aerodynamic study, as adding windbreaks is likely to create too much weight while trying to separate off high-sided vehicles could not be adequately enforced.

Other feasibility studies into keeping the eastbound carriageway open in its entirety and running in just the inside lanes is also to take place, although a timeline for that portion of work has not been disclosed.


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