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Prospect of third Orwell Bridge closure this year sees Ipswich MP make renewed calls for northern bypass

PUBLISHED: 20:02 23 January 2018 | UPDATED: 20:02 23 January 2018

The Orwell Bridge is expected to close during Wednesday's rush hour. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The Orwell Bridge is expected to close during Wednesday's rush hour. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Warnings issued of the Orwell Bridge's third closure in as many weeks have prompted renewed calls for a northern bypass to be built.

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin has said the figures needed to be taken very seriously. Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONSIpswich MP Sandy Martin has said the figures needed to be taken very seriously. Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS

Highways England told drivers the bridge would likely be closed through tomorrow morning’s rush hour due to forecasts of 60mph winds.

If the closure goes it will be the third time this year the A14 has shut across the river, bringing widespread disruption to the surrounding roads.

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin said the frequency of closures “brings into sharp relief” the need to have an alternative for the A14.

“I believe these closures are justified - it’s not safe to open the bridge after accidents or when there are high winds,” he added.

Heavy traffic in Ipswich due to the recent closure of the Orwell bridge.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNHeavy traffic in Ipswich due to the recent closure of the Orwell bridge. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“But if the bridge is going to close we need to have an alternative route for all these vehicles. It’s not just Ipswich - it’s the whole strategic freight network of the UK that’s affected.”

Mr Martin has asked transport minister Chris Grayling for a meeting about the possibility of building an Ipswich northern bypass and says he is hopeful it will take place soon.

As reported earlier this week, however, the project does not have widespread support across the political spectrum. Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dan Poulter, whose constituency covers proposed bypass route, said it could blight communities and still not solve the problem.

Although the suggestion of a northern bypass has been around since the 1980s, the frequency of recent Orwell Bridge closures has added a new urgency. Ipswich Central claims the closures cost the town’s businesses more than £1million in lost revenue and disruption.

After the first closure of this year, chairman Terry Baxter said the impact on businesses was “totally unacceptable” and called for urgent talks with Highways England so that they “fully understand the implications of their decisions”.

The decision to close the bridge is taken on safety grounds when wind speeds are expected to exceed 60mph.

The first two closures happened when storms battered the region.

The Met Office said this winter had seen an “average” frequency of storms in the UK and the high wind speeds of recent weeks were not unusual.

Weatherquest said tomorrow would see a prolonged period of strong winds from 8am-1pm, with the highest speeds around noon.

The diversion is via the A1156, A1189 and A1214 through Ipswich.

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