Wind tunnel testing to prevent Orwell Bridge closures to be completed by end of month
PUBLISHED: 16:34 17 September 2020 | UPDATED: 16:34 17 September 2020
Tests to determine whether the Orwell Bridge could stay open during high winds are expected to be finished by the end of September, it has been confirmed.
That was the pledge from Transport Minister Grant Shapps in the House of Commons today.
The current speed limit on the Orwell Bridge is 60mph and work has been ongoing to change this to 40mph by the end of 2020.
This means the threshold for closing the bridge will be raised to 70mph in high winds as opposed to the current threshold of 50mph – meaning 15 of the 18 wind closures since 2013 wouldn’t have happened under the new limit.
Wind tunnel testing at City University in London has been taking place in recent months and a report on the impact of lowering the speed limit is expected to be completed by the end of the month.
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Ipswich MP Tom Hunt raised his query about the “biggest transport issue” his constituents face shortly after 10am today, saying: “When it closes due to high winds, the whole town grinds to a halt and the economic impact of this should not be underestimated.
“Highways England have got a plan which involves a 40mph speed limit which will hopefully mean the bridge can stay open even when it’s very windy, however I am slightly concerned about the time scale.”
The completion of the work had been promised by winter 2020 and Mr Hunt asked Transport Minister Grant Shapps whether he would be able to communicate to Highways England the urgency of completing before the winter season, which typically brings more frequent high winds.
Mr Shapps said: “I know that the Orwell Bridge is subject to work ongoing from Highways England which requires wind tunnel validation and I have been promised that work will be complete by the end of September.
“Straight from the dispatch box I can send that very clear message to Highways England and I expect to see it on my desk.”
Mr Hunt later said he was very pleased with Mr Shapps’ response and that it was clear he had looked into the matter – however, the Ipswich MP still harbours some concerns the project could take longer than the end of year deadline.
“I appreciate that Covid has presented some huge challenges,” he said. “But the work should be fully completed by the end of the year as it is of significant economic importance to the town and of regional economic significance too.
“My only concern is that Highways England haven’t always been the most dynamic organisation and the initial report was way over schedule so there is always the risk there will be further delays.”
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