Did new variable speed limit on Orwell Bridge work?
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
A new variable speed limit to help prevent Orwell Bridge closures during high winds has been declared a success - after it was used for the first time.
Highways England lowered the usual 60mph limit to 40mph on Monday night when high winds struck, thanks to new electronic speed signs installed this year.
That reduced speed limit was used again on Tuesday morning, when the bridge otherwise might have had to have been closed - resulting in traffic chaos in and around Ipswich.
Highways England said data had been collected from the first use of the new measures to help inform future use. However, it said it was buoyed by the results.
Martin Fellows, Highways England regional director, said: “The strong winds and gusts of over 50mph experienced on Monday resulted in us implementing the new 40mph speed restrictions on the Orwell Bridge for the first time.
“We are pleased that this went as planned and traffic was able to continue to safely cross the bridge at lower speeds despite the strong winds experienced.”
The 40mph speed limit was one of four key measures outlined by Highways England after it published the results of its nine-month aerodynamic study.
Other options included keeping the eastbound carriageway open where the wind impact was not as high as the westbound, closing the inside lanes of both carriageways and adding wind parapets.
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However, the 40mph solution was considered the easiest to implement and work to install new speed signs was completed in March.
Average speed cameras are also in place to deter motorists from flouting the rules. However, the bridge will still need to close if wind speeds hit 60mph or more.
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A Highways England spokeswoman said: "No other options are being considered at present.
"The implemented solution was considered to be most effective and practical.
"The 40mph arrangements are supported by a several studies and development work.
"However, we will keep these arrangements under review to determine if any further measures are required."
The route is an essential corridor for motorists, connecting the Port of Felixstowe with the Midlands and the North.
It carries more than 60,000 vehicles every day.
It is estimated to cost the local economy £1million every day the bridge is closed.