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Orwell Bridge 'costs businesses in Ipswich £1million a day' every time it closes

PUBLISHED: 20:28 13 March 2019 | UPDATED: 20:28 13 March 2019

The A14 Orwell Bridge was shut due to the high winds from Storm Gareth Picture: PETER CUTTS

The A14 Orwell Bridge was shut due to the high winds from Storm Gareth Picture: PETER CUTTS

Peter Cutts

The closure of the Orwell Bridge costs firms in Ipswich £1million a day - "money that has left the town and won't come back", according to a business leader.

Paul Clement, chief executive of Ipswich Central Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNPaul Clement, chief executive of Ipswich Central Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Paul Clement, chief executive of Ipswich Central, has criticised Highways England following a day of chaos on the roads around Ipswich.

The bridge, over the A14, was closed today, Wednesday, March 13, before the morning rush hour due to the “very high winds” brought by Storm Gareth, reopening at around 3.45pm.

A spokesman for Highways England said the bridge is only closed when “essential for safety reasons” and that it had been working to “reduce the number, duration and impact of closures due to severe weather”.

However, Mr Clement said the problem needs to be addressed quickly, claiming it costs the town’s businesses huge amounts of money whenever the bridge is shut.

The Orwell Bridge closure caused traffic chaos in Ipswich Picture: PETER CUTTSThe Orwell Bridge closure caused traffic chaos in Ipswich Picture: PETER CUTTS

“Yet again Ipswich has faced a day of complete disruption,” he said.

“Businesses find their staff arrive exceptionally late, while customers turn away from the town as they can’t come in as the roads are in complete gridlock.

“It costs businesses cumulatively £1m a day when the bridge is shut and that is money that has left the town and won’t come back. It will not be replaced.

“Why is it Ipswich has the only bridge in the country that closes when the wind is slightly more than a gust? Over a year ago Highways England said that they would deal with the problem, and one year on they haven’t.

Traffic built up in Ipswich as vehicles were diverted through the town Picture: PETER CUTTSTraffic built up in Ipswich as vehicles were diverted through the town Picture: PETER CUTTS

“Yes we’re supportive of a northern bypass, but it’s not the solution. You have to face a problem head on and the problem is the Orwell Bridge.

“Virtually every business has lost a significant amount of money today. It’s ridiculous.”

However, a spokesman for Highways England said more disruption would be created if a heavy goods vehicle were to block the carriageway.

They said: “The bridge is closed for safety reasons, usually due to high winds.

“We do not take a decision to close the bridge lightly.

“When the wind speed is forecast to reach a certain level, we will close the bridge.

“If the forecast is close to the point at which we may close, we will announce that it may close and then keep drivers informed as the forecasts gets clearer nearer the time.

“High sided vehicles are liable to blow over in high winds, and in addition to the unacceptable safety risk this would pose to drivers it would also likely see the bridge closed for considerable longer than the planned closures currently in place.”

They added they were working with partners and stakeholders to help combat high traffic caused in Ipswich when the bridge is closed.

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