Road users’ relief as Orwell Bridge reopens early after wind closure

The Orwell Bridge was open as normal on Thursday morning. Picture: HIGHWAYS ENGLAND

The Orwell Bridge was open as normal on Thursday morning. Picture: HIGHWAYS ENGLAND - Credit: Archant

Road users – especially commuters – gave a huge sigh of relief when the Orwell Bridge re-opened early on Thursday morning after an overnight closure because of high winds.

The bridge was closed at 10pm on Wednesday night as weather forecasters predicted overnight wind speeds that could make the route dangerous for traffic.

Officials from Highways England had said they expected the bridge to reopen at about 8am on Thursday – in the middle of the morning rush hour – but in the event traffic was flowing across it again from 5.30am.

The early re-opening and the information to road users came about after Highways England met police and county council officials last month to discuss new ways of handling closures.

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore has seen working with the agency to ease problems caused by the closure of the bridge as a key part of his role since he was first elected in 2012.

He said he was very pleased by the way the latest closure was handled – and the fact that the decision to reopen the bridge was able to be made in the early hours of the morning.

He said: “We have been talking to Highways England for about three years and I really do think we have made good progress and developed a degree of trust and openness that was not there before.

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“I am delighted at the way they have dealt with this issue. The fact that they were able to monitor the situation and get the bridge open again before most people needed to use it made all the difference.”

And he said the way the agency had told people what was happening was very important: “We knew it would be closed overnight. We have been saying all along that people need to know what is happening so far as the bridge is concerned – this time they did and it seems the closure did not cause too many problems.”

An overnight closure was always going to be less of a problem than it is in the middle of the day, and Suffolk County Council deputy leader Jane Storey – who is current responsible for highway issues at the authority – was also relieved it had passed off with few problems.

She said: “Well done Mother Nature for finishing the storm early – and Thank You to Highways England for opening the bridge as soon as possible.”