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Ipswich MP puts hat in ring for town’s traffic task force

PUBLISHED: 18:00 26 February 2020

A task force to address traffic issues in Ipswich is to progress now that the northern route will no longer go ahead. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A task force to address traffic issues in Ipswich is to progress now that the northern route will no longer go ahead. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has put his name forward to chair a task group tackling Ipswich traffic problems, citing the importance of the project for the town.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has offered to chair the Ipswich traffic task force. Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONSIpswich MP Tom Hunt has offered to chair the Ipswich traffic task force. Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS

Mr Hunt, Conservative, has said he would still like a northern bypass for the town, but recognised the task force agreed by Suffolk County Council's cabinet on Tuesday was where short-term progress could be made.

READ MORE: Suffolk County Council cabinet ends northern bypass work

He said: "Given the importance of transport issues to our town, I would like to express my willingness to chair the meetings of this new task force as the local Member of Parliament.

"I believe it is vital that we are able to tackle Ipswich's transport issues at all levels of government.

"And while the creation of this task force is an important step in relieving the traffic pressures that Ipswich faces in the short-term, I will also not give up the fight for a northern bypass.

Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks said he was buoyed by the response already to the new Ipswich traffic task force plans. Picture: GREGG BROWNSuffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks said he was buoyed by the response already to the new Ipswich traffic task force plans. Picture: GREGG BROWN

"I am convinced that the new road is an essential part of a sustainable transport future and the recently published business case has only made this argument stronger.

"Many of those now standing in the way of the bypass have changed their mind in the past. The evidence is now there for them to do so again and I will not stop making the case."

The group is set to look at a range of measures, such as means of encouraging more people to cycle, walk or use public transport, and whether any improvements can be made to problem junctions.

READ MORE: Ipswich MP says he will not give up on northern bypass

Mr Hunt said the task force must also hold Highways England to account on its plan to reduce wind closures on the Orwell Bridge by next winter.

The task force must also hold Highways England to account on it plans to keep the Orwell Bridge open during high winds, said Tom Hunt.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNThe task force must also hold Highways England to account on it plans to keep the Orwell Bridge open during high winds, said Tom Hunt. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Ideas already being discussed are continued lobbying for A14 investment - particularly around Copdock Mill - as well as proposals for a bus partnership between providers to make it easier for passengers to travel and an electric bus pilot in the town.

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Matthew Hicks, Conservative leader of the county council said: "I am really encouraged by the wide level of support our idea of a task force for Ipswich has received in such a short period of time.

"I want to thank Tom for his offer to chair this important work.

David Ellesmere, leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said it was vital the council had a place on the new task group. Picture: IBCDavid Ellesmere, leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said it was vital the council had a place on the new task group. Picture: IBC

"Everyone wants to see this task force get on with its job of evaluating transport options in Ipswich.

"With this in mind, I will be speaking to my cabinet colleagues with a view to making an appointment as soon as possible."

Crucially, the group will feature input from other councils, as well as business leaders, youngsters, environment groups and other interested parties.

Ipswich Borough Council's Labour leader David Ellesmere said: "We still believe that a northern bypass is the best option for Ipswich.

"The decision not to proceed has been taken as a result of short term political expediency by Suffolk County Council.

"Our part of Suffolk will come to regret this decision in future as housing continues to get built but now without the infrastructure to support it.

"Although it is clearly a poor second best to proceeding with a northern bypass, we want to see the task force set up as soon as possible and for Ipswich Borough Council to be strongly represented on it.

READ MORE: Task force to be formed to review Ipswich traffic

"Currently there is no decision on who will chair the task force, decision on membership, no decision on its terms of reference and no guarantee that Suffolk County Council will implement its recommendations. This needs to change soon."

Among the measures Mr Ellesmere has called for are a fresh commitment to the Park and Ride operations at Bury Road and Nacton Road, free public transport for under 21s and creating a dedicated cycle path network across town.

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