Traffic chaos as winds close Port

LONG queues of lorries waited patiently today on the A14 at Felixstowe as strong winds once again closed Britain's busiest port.Operation Stack was in action with police positioned at the dock spur roundabout, stopping every truck and directing those bound for the port terminals to wait in the outside lane, with those heading for depots on the inside lane.

By Richard Cornwell

LONG queues of lorries waited patiently today on the A14 at Felixstowe as strong winds once again closed Britain's busiest port.

Operation Stack was in action with police positioned at the dock spur roundabout, stopping every truck and directing those bound for the port terminals to wait in the outside lane, with those heading for depots on the inside lane.

However by rush hour, the queue of dozens of articulated lorries in the outside lane was almost back to the High Road bridge and plans were in place to stack further back on the A14 and on the old Felixstowe Road at Levington.

High winds have been playing havoc with port operations this year with high-rise quayside cranes unable to work on the ships once the wind speed reaches 35 mph for safety reasons.

Winds of up to 45mph hit the county from about 10pm yesterday, but despite the blustery conditions, Suffolk remained relatively unscathed with emergency services today saying they were not recalled to any wind related incidents

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However more frequent blustery days have meant more port closures this year- and frustration for Felixstowe residents needing to use the A14 to get to work and to take children to school and college.

Today Operation Stack was working effectively, but it still meant reduced speeds for car drivers, tailbacks and the A14 reduced to one lane because of the lorry stacking system.

Many were choosing to go through the Trimley villages rather than the A14.

Villagers are monitoring the impact of the system and have invited Felixstowe police chief Insp Steve Gallant to meet them to discuss the situation.

Earlier this year after two days of high winds, the port re-opened and 500 trucks emerged onto the dual carriageway, causing gridlock - with thousands of cars having to be diverted through the twin Trimley villages and Walton to reach Felixstowe.

John Barker, chairman of Trimley St Martin parish council said it created a nightmare for the villages and there was concern over how quickly Operation Stack was put into action.

Mr Barker said: “We seem to be seeing the port closed more often and with the changing weather conditions and global warming it could happen even more frequently in the future.”

Bosses at Felixstowe port have apologised to the community for the inconvenience caused by the closures and have been liaising with the police over the traffic problems.

WEBLINK: www.trimley-st-martin.org.uk

Do you think Operation Stack works? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Evening Star weatherman Ken Blowers said the strong winds began at around 10pm last night and continued until around 3am before calming down to gusts of between 25mph and 30mph. The winds are due to die down today.

It will remain windy today and Wednesday and Thursday will be dry before more rain arrives at the weekend.

Elsewhere in the country up to 20 people were evacuated after part of the front of a building collapsed during high winds in Bournemouth.

Meanwhile a train travelling from Gillingham in Kent to Redhill in Surrey was derailed after hitting a fallen tree and other services were disrupted because of debris blown on to railway lines during the overnight gales.

None of the six passengers on board the train were hurt by the incident, which led to the railway line being blocked during the busy commuter morning rush hours.

In another incident, an Ashford, Kent, to London Victoria train also struck a tree near Maidstone, again blocking the line.

No one was hurt in the incident.

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