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Sign the Ipswich Star's petition for a northern bypass after Orwell Bridge closure caused gridlock chaos

PUBLISHED: 12:42 24 November 2016 | UPDATED: 12:42 24 November 2016

The other end of a new route around Ipswich? The roundabout near Martlesham Park and Ride

The other end of a new route around Ipswich? The roundabout near Martlesham Park and Ride

The Ipswich Star is today launching a campaign backing calls for a northern bypass after frustrated motorists have said that traffic relief is needed more than ever - and it could be the key to unlocking the town's potential.

Traffic chaos on Colchester Road in Ipswich due to the closure of the Orwell Bridge.Traffic chaos on Colchester Road in Ipswich due to the closure of the Orwell Bridge.

The closure of the Orwell Bridge for nearly 12 hours on Tuesday because of strong winds caused Ipswich to remain gridlocked for the morning, with many motorists reporting cross-town journeys of several hours.

And after a strong response from readers and backed by community leaders in Ipswich, the Star is lending its weight to calls for the bypass.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said: “I am very pleased that the Star has taken up the important campaign to get another road link around the north of the town.

“I promised that I would pursue this in 2015 and since then, together with David Ellesmere at the borough council, we have secured the funds to work out where the road would go and how much it would cost. We should have an update on that study in the next few weeks.

“It is imperative that we continue the momentum on this project as it will take some time before spades hit the ground and is essential that that happens before we build significant numbers of new houses to the north of Ipswich, not afterwards when the town is even more congested.”

In March a £250,000 feasibility study was launched to investigate potential routes by Ben Gummer and local authority leaders – and Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere has called on project lead Suffolk County Council to put the issue at the forefront of its agenda.

“We have to believe that the Orwell Bridge is a single point of failure – when it goes down the amount of lost hours from people that turned back from work yesterday is absolutely devastating,” he said.

“There’s work done to try and reduce accidents on the Orwell Bridge with average speed cameras, but it wasn’t an accident that closed the bridge, and this kind of thing could be happening more and more.

Traffic chaos on Colchester Road in Ipswich due to the closure of the Orwell Bridge.Traffic chaos on Colchester Road in Ipswich due to the closure of the Orwell Bridge.

“By putting a new road that is effective in taking traffic away from the town it enables more houses to be built, more economic growth and more jobs to be created.”

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said there was currently no end-date on the feasibility study, which was ongoing.

The spokesman added: “The northern bypass feasibility study is ongoing and we are continuing to look at route options, effects on traffic and impacts on the environment, as well as understanding how any bypass would fit in with future growth in the wider Ipswich area.

“There will always be busier road conditions at peak times as more people want to use the road network to get to work and school. It is important that we all consider the transport we use for such journeys. Often there are alternatives options to the car when it comes to making short journeys including walking, cycling and Park and Ride routes. We are currently investigating potential short, medium, and longer term highway improvements to address some areas of congestion in the Ipswich area.”

The Orwell Bridge.The Orwell Bridge.

Both Mr Gummer and Mr Ellesmere stressed that a northern bypass would allow Ipswich’s road network to cope with additional traffic new housebuilding would bring.

“It is not just Ipswich but for the Port of Felixstowe to have such an unreliable stretch of road,” Mr Ellesmere added. “If we don’t get this sorted out it could set Felixstowe on a steady decline.”

The Suffolk Chamber of Commerce is working alongside the county council to investigate funding opportunities, and said it could be the key to unlocking Ipswich’s potential.

“Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has been lobbying for Ipswich to have a transport system that has the right capacity and flexibility to help deliver rather than hinder the town’s enormous economic potential,” said Stephen Britt, chairman of the chamber’s transport and infrastructure board.

“There are times when the town feels like a gold medal athlete in chains: its potential shackled by a road system in and around the town.

“That is why we have been working with our partners to investigate improvements not just to one part of the issue, but to the wider road network.

“The Upper Orwell Crossings are an important step forward in loosing these constraints. We also feel that, subject to a proven business case, a northern bypass would help further unshackle Ipswich’s potential and avoid Tuesday’s gridlock alongside other measures, including new ‘stack’ options and contingency plans when the Orwell Bridge is closed.”

But Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter, whose constituency the bypass would run through, has raised concerns over the scheme.

“There is little evidence to support a Northern Bypass being a silver bullet to solve traffic congestion issues in the Ipswich area. In fact, I have serious concerns that a northern bypass would simply serve to increase traffic congestion in the already busy area around the Martlesham Park and Ride site and Kesgrave, where most motorists experience delays in a daily basis.

“Given that there is already major investment in road and rail infrastructure in Suffolk, including the wet dock crossing in Ipswich, the pressing need for improvements in connectivity between Ipswich and Lowestoft along the A12 should be our current priority, particularly in prioritising a four villages bypass.

“In terms of the Orwell Bridge, we should prioritise finding improved traffic management solutions during occasions when the Orwell Bridge is closed due to adverse weather conditions.”

Meanwhile, a poll run by this newspaper reveals today how almost 95% of just under 2,000 readers do not think Ipswich’s road network is better than five years ago. Suffolk County Council responds.

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