‘This must be the last winter the Orwell Bridge closes completely because of strong winds’ - says MP
PUBLISHED: 05:35 17 February 2020 | UPDATED: 07:48 17 February 2020
It is “absolutely imperative” that steps are taken to keep the Orwell Bridge open during storms, claims MP in wake of 18 hour closure.
Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich, spoke out last night after Storm Dennis forced the closure of the bridge for 18 hours from Saturday afternoon into Sunday morning - just a week after a prolonged closure during Storm Ciara.
In total, strong winds have led to 50 hours and 53 minutes of closures since the start of the year - a figure that is already higher than the total time closed during the two years preceding this.
In 2018 and 2019 there was a combined total of 48 hours and 37 minutes of wind-related closures, including closures caused by the Beast from the East.
Mr Hunt is lobbying Highways England to do more to keep the bridge open during stormy weather and improve traffic flow through Ipswich.
He said it was "absolutely imperative" that procedures for high winds are in place by next winter to prevent further closures of the bridge - including temporary speed limits of 40mph during stormy weather.
He said: "We are deep in the winter months and I'm sure all of my constituents have felt the amount of time the bridge has been closed because it affects their lives.
"The weather that we have seen over the past two weekends has absolutely underlined the need for the plans which have been published by Highways England, to allow cars to cross the bridge even in high winds, to be implemented sooner rather than later.
"It is really in the hands of the highways authority.
"It is vital that this winter is the last winter in which the bridge can close completely due to strong winds."
The results of a nine-month aerodynamic study on the bridge were published in January and Highways England are now working to introduce the new speed restrictions by the end of 2020.
Phil Smart, Ipswich Borough Councillor's portfolio holder for the Environment and Climate change, said: "It is important for cars to be able to drive over the Orwell Bridge during weather like we have had this weekend.
"I think it is not wrong to presume that an increase in these storms has something to do with climate change and so I don't think we will see less of them in the future.
"It's important that the plans put forward by Highways England are utilised as soon as possible."