Business leader’s anger as Orwell Bridge closes while study into windspeeds is delayed
A business leader has voiced his anger at the ‘unforgiveable’ delay of a report into Orwell Bridge closures as the major crossing shut again due to high winds.
The aerodynamic study into winds on the bridge, a joint effort by Highways England and City University of London, was originally planned to take nine months after beginning in October 2018.
But despite the study already having carried out, the organisations failed to submit a report on time to the Ipswich Borough Council scrutiny committee by the end of last year.
Now, as the bridge has closed again due to high crosswinds, leaders have spoken out at Highways England's commitment to unveil their findings at the end of January - months later than originally planned.
Paul Clement, chief executive for Ipswich Central, said: "Businesses, their customers and their staff continue to be united in their frustration at the continued closures of the bridge while other similar structures around the country remain open.
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"We have calculated our business lose up to £1million every day the bridge is shut and given this, the highways authorities completely unnecessarily delay is unforgiveable.
"The current situation is just utterly ridiculous and doesn't happen elsewhere."
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Currently, the bridge closes to all vehicles when crosswinds reach speeds of 50mph - although calls have repeatedly been made to only close the crossing to high-sided vehicles.
Mr Clement added safety should always be a priority for Highways England but said alternative avenues must be explored fully.
The tests will not only determine whether it will be safe for smaller vehicles to cross during such speeds, but also for the possibility of wind barriers to be added.
A Highways England spokesperson said: "We are always looking for ways to improve the resilience of our road network and over the last 12 months we have been working with our partners in Suffolk and City University of London to see if we can safely allow vehicles over Orwell Bridge during higher wind speeds.
"Whilst we appreciate the high level of public interest in the issue, we need to first fully understand the technical information within the report provided to us by City University so that we can accurately present the findings to the committee."