Three possible routes for the northern bypass around Ipswich have been revealed - see here

Where will the Northern Bypass go?

Where will the Northern Bypass go? - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

Today the potential routes for the northern bypass - taking traffic away from Ipswich town centre - have been revealed but it could take at least 15 years for any work on a new road to start.

Possible routes for the northern by-pass.

Possible routes for the northern by-pass. - Credit: Archant

Suffolk County Council has received an initial report from consultants WSP looking at the options for a northern bypass which has concluded that it would help ease traffic in and around Ipswich – but that it needs more detailed examination before any bid for government money is sought.

And with other schemes on the drawing board and ahead of the bypass in the queue for development officials at the county accept it could be 10-15 years before any work starts on the road... and it could possibly take longer.

In the meantime other solutions to ease traffic congestion around Ipswich are to be considered – including trying to persuade more people to use public transport by improving bus and train links.

The Ipswich Northern Route Study from WSP identifies three potential “broad-brush” routes for the road at different distances from the town itself.

James Finch warned it could be many years before work starts on the northern by-pass.

James Finch warned it could be many years before work starts on the northern by-pass. - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

These are designed to be very non-specific in a bid to avoid blighting any individual properties at this stage.

The northern route, running from the Beacon Hill junction at Coddenham (A14/A140) to the A12 at Melton is the seen as the best solution for traffic from the east coast of Suffolk heading to the Midlands, but would have the least effect on easing traffic in Ipswich itself.

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For that reason it seems unlikely to feature strongly in future examinations.

The other two routes are from the A14 Claydon junction – and would run to either the A12 at Woodbridge or the A12 Martlesham roundabout.

The first stage of the northern routes study has considered the transport conditions across the wider Ipswich area both now and in 2031, based on current planned growth and identified highway improvements, including the Upper Orwell Crossings.

The county said each corridor would have different impacts on the environment, and on the potential to support future growth.

A package of proposals to improve the A14 junctions around Ipswich is also being developed by the county council working alongside Highways England.

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for highways and transport, James Finch, said it was necessary to show there would be a significant economic benefit for the area if a major scheme like this was to attract government funding.

And it would not be a quick process: “I think it will take at least 10-15 years to get through all the hurdles. I tend to be optimistic about these things,” he said.

In the meantime it was necessary to consider other options to help ease the pressure on the town as it expanded.

This included encouraging more people to use public transport by possibly improving facilities and the number of trains stopping at Westerfield station as the Ipswich Garden Suburb is built.

A new station could be built on the Felixstowe branch to serve the Warren Heath/Ransomes area.

Mr Finch said that while a northern bypass could ease traffic problems in Ipswich when the Orwell Bridge was closed because of accidents or high winds, that argument was unlikely to persuade the government to invest.

He said: “The main issues that we have to push are the economic benefit, the value for businesses in the area, and to show that the road is needed for new homes in the area.”

A Greater Anglia spokeswoman said the company was keen to work with the county council on improving services.

She said: “We worked together on the provision of the rail infrastructure upgrade at Beccles, which enabled an hourly service to be introduced on the route and on the promotion of those additional services with the East Suffolk Line Community Rail Partnership – thereby leading to a substantial increase in passengers using the line.

“We are therefore happy to talk about the prospects and practicalities of other service improvements in the future.”

Traffic in Ipswich

The report shows significant changes to Ipswich over the last decade – and casts a spotlight on how it is expected to continue to change in the next 15 years.

The population of the Ipswich Study Area, including Martlesham, Kesgrave, Claydon, and Needham Market, increased from 173,000 to 194,000 between 2001 and 2011 (a rise of 12%) – and that increase is expected to continue.

The working population increase was even higher at 16%, and the figures suggested more people are using their cars to get to work.

Between 2001-11 the number of people living in the borough of Ipswich who drove a car or van to get to work went up from slightly more than 28,000 to just under 37,000 – a 32% increase over 10 years.

The proportion driving to work increased from 56% to 58%.

The number of people catching a bus or coach to work fell by 10% but the number catching a train to work increased by 60% – although they only make up 3% of the town’s working population.

The number of people walking to work increased from 7,500 to 11,000 – probably as a result of the increased number of homes built in the town centre and Waterfront area.

Nearly two-thirds of Ipswich workers travel less than three miles to their workplace every day – almost 30% live within a mile and a quarter of their workplace.

If the rise in vehicle numbers continues to increase at this rate, congestion will be much more serious long before any northern bypass is built.

And traffic models suggest that while a northern bypass will reduce congestion at some “pinch-points” in the town, it will not reduce the overall traffic in the town centre – merely alter the way that drivers approach it.

In national comparisons, Ipswich is 58th in size among the 63 “large conurbations” that are studied by the Centre for Cities think-tank.

It is one of the greenest cities in the country – the CO2 generated per capita puts it at 62nd out of the 63.

It comes in 12th in the league table for cycling to work and sixth for walking to work. The average value created per worker in the town is £48,500 a year – putting Ipswich at 26th in the league table.

MPs at odds over Northern By-pass

Ipswich’s two Conservative MPs seem set to lock horns over the proposed Ipswich bypass in what is likely to be a long battle.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer wants a preferred route to be identified soon to start planning for its construction.

But Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter, who represents the communities that any new road would pass through, was disappointed that the proposal had re-emerged after effectively being killed off about 20 years ago.

Mr Gummer said: “This is the first stage in what will be a complicated but necessary process of determining the best route around the top of the town.

“It will not only relieve traffic congestion in Ipswich and on the Orwell Bridge, but will support further development for much needed housing in our town and county.

“It is very important that we complete the study as quickly as possible so that we can identify a preferred route, we can build it into our plans

and start campaigning for the money that will be required.”

Dr Poulter said “I am surprised that this feasibility study has been commissioned at all given that the leader of Suffolk County Council, Colin Noble, directly stated last year on social media that there will be no northern bypass in the near future, and identified instead the key importance of the wet dock crossing as the primary means of reducing congestion in central Ipswich.

“The issue of any potential northern bypass is certainly not a new one and even in the early 1980s when the idea was floated, it was acknowledged by both Clifford Smith and John Gummer that a northern bypass route would not

offer a solution to traffic congestion in Ipswich town centre, or improve the

situation in the event of closure of the Orwell Bridge during extreme weather conditions.

“I share that view and the current suggestions floated in Suffolk County Council’s feasibility study conducted by WSP at the cost of £50,000 can at best be described as vague, and lack detail.

“That said, the real solution to traffic congestion issues in Ipswich lies in changing behaviours and making the most of sustainable transport options, such as public transport, walking and cycling which not only help to alleviate congestion, but also bring with them tangible health and lifestyle benefits.”

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere said: “This study is of huge significance for the whole of Suffolk.

“We have seen the damage to the local economy that relying on the Orwell Bridge as a single point of failure causes. Our creaking infrastructure will increasingly put a brake on Ipswich’s role as the

key economic driver for Suffolk.

“I welcome the publication of the interim report and look forward to the full study being completed as soon as possible.”