Road chiefs face probe over snow chaos

QUESTIONS were today being asked of road chiefs after Suffolk ground to a halt in the overnight snowfalls.

QUESTIONS were today being asked of road chiefs after Suffolk ground to a halt in the overnight snowfalls.

Despite strikingly accurate forecasts from weather experts, Highways Agency gritters were still unable to keep the county's most important roads open.

This left scores of motorists forced to spend the night in their cars on the Suffolk/Essex border and meant more chaos in central Ipswich as the Orwell Bridge was closed.

The chaos happened despite assurances from highways chiefs that there would be no repeat of February's problems which brought much of Britain to a halt.

This time they said gritters were unable to get on to the Orwell Bridge or the A12 because of the amount of traffic.

Up to 6ins of snow fell during the night - and despite a huge county-wide gripping operation, the volume of the falls, driven by high winds, left the emergency services at full stretch.

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Most Suffolk schools were closed - the last day of term before the Christmas break.

Some of the problems were:

Drivers trapped as the A12 between Ipswich and Colchester was closed by black ice and snow.

Coaches stranded on the way home from the Co-op Juniors opening night at Snape Maltings - many people couldn't get there.

Orwell Bridge towards Felixstowe closed after lorries couldn't get up the incline - police using tractors to get truckers pulled free.

Dozens of minor accidents around the county - a jack-knifed lorry at Copdock caused particular chaos.

Suffolk Police reported 44 incidents since midnight - thankfully non serious.

Essex Police reported 138 accidents in a few hours - including dozens of snow-balling incidents.

Many cars went off roads and into ditches.

The A14 was clear towards the Port of Felixstowe - but operations were suspended and Operation Stack in place.

Reports were also coming in of a major power cut in north Colchester.

A broken down tanker was causing traffic chaos on the A12. The incident was reported at 5.30am on the southbound carriageway near the Essex border. Both lanes of the southbound carriageway are affected and police are advising drivers to avoid this part of the A12.

Since midnight Suffolk Police have dealt with 44 incidents, mostly on the roads. There have been three two car collisions and 18 single vehicle crashes but no reports of any serious injuries.

After the first falls last night a severe weather warning was issued for more snow during the day.

Suffolk and Essex were two of many counties blitzed by the conditions with reports of severe difficulties from County Durham to Yorkshire and on down the eastern fringe and coastal counties all the way to Kent.

Meanwhile, Ipswich Buses were reporting they were running as normal.

WATCH this site for all the details during the day.

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Read tomorrow's EADT and Evening Star for full updates and pictures on the day snow brought parts of the region to a standstill.