Another delay to work to end winter closures on the Orwell Bridge

Work to ease the threat of closing the Orwell Bridge won't start this year (FILE PHOTO) Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Work to ease the threat of closing the Orwell Bridge won't start this year (FILE PHOTO) Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Hopes of getting a new speed limit on the Orwell Bridge by the start of winter have suffered another delay after Highways England revealed new speed limits and other safety measures would not be introduced until the end of January at the earliest.

In May – just as the lockdown was starting to ease – the government agency said it still hoped to have the safety measures introduced by the time the winter storms season starts this year.

The worst weather usually hits the bridge between the middle of November and early February – which can often force Highways England bosses to close the A14, forcing traffic to use roads around Ipswich.

But this week’s meeting of the Ipswich Traffic Taskforce, which was set up to try to ease congestion in the town, was told that work would not start until 2021 – with the aim of the new speed limit being introduced by the end of January. That should allow traffic to continue to use the bridge, albeit at a slower speed, when the winds are high enough for it to be closed under current protocols.

MORE: Highways England pledged in May that the improvements would be completed by the winter storm seasonHighways England delivered a presentation to the Taskforce where Ipswich MP Tom Hunt and the other members were told that project should seen work on the implementation of the speed limit solution set to start in early 2021. This work is set to take a month to complete.

Highways England’s safety work in a wind tunnel at City, University London was delayed by one month until the end of October.

Mr Hunt queried the hold up to this work with Highways England during the Taskforce meeting. In response to a question from Hunt in the Commons last month, the Transport Secretary had said he had been expecting this work “on his desk” by the end of September.

MORE: Taskforce set up to tackle congestion in IpswichMr Hunt said: “We heard today that work on the ground is due to start in ‘early 2021.’ Ending the disruption caused by the closures can’t come soon enough for Ipswich and in the meeting today, I drew Highways England’s attention to my recent transport surveys where thousands of respondents cited it as a major issue.

“Chairing today’s meeting was a good opportunity to scrutinise Highways England and make sure this project is moving forward at the pace my constituents expect. That’s why I’m making sure that the Orwell Bridge is on every Taskforce agenda going forwards so this scrutiny can be kept up.”

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