Tunnel idea for trucks rears head again

IT has been suggested before but the idea of a second bridge over the River Orwell or a tunnel beneath its waters is being talked about again.

Richard Cornwell

IT has been suggested before but the idea of a second bridge over the River Orwell or a tunnel beneath its waters is being talked about again.

A community leader says creating a crossing from Felixstowe to Harwich would have huge benefits for the area - taking away half of the traffic on Suffolk's roads.

It could cut congestion on the Orwell Bridge and around Ipswich on the A14 in an instant, with southbound trucks able to slash miles from their journeys.

It is understood council leaders in Essex have been considering the idea as part of long-term thinking for the Haven Gateway area, but in Suffolk the northern by-pass around Ipswich is viewed as a better project.

Suffolk Coastal district councillor Veronica Falconer, who represents the Nacton area, said a new crossing should be looked at as part of the expansion of the Port of Felixstowe and the resort, which is set for a population increase when 2,200-plus new homes are built.

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“I think it is time we looked again at the possibility of a bridge or a tunnel between Harwich and Felixstowe - especially with the extra traffic which is going to be generated on the A14 when these developments happen,” she said.

“This will reduce the amount of additional traffic in this area by half.

“No-one will like to live on this peninsula in the future when we have all this extra traffic unless we do something about it now - Operation Stack and congestion on the Orwell Bridge add more problems. The infrastructure is appalling.”

Andy Smith, chairman of Suffolk Coastal District Council's task group drawing up policy for the future, said there were many issues to consider without looking at such huge projects.

A tunnel or a second bridge would be hugely expensive - possibly costing hundreds of millions of pounds at today's prices and the shipping industry is not convinced it is the answer.

Port sources said construction would take a huge land area and there is no site available at the port or along the river.

More lorry traffic goes via the A14 to the north and midlands rather than south on the A12 so the gain might not be as big as believed, and the A120 at Harwich would need to be dualled.

Felixstowe port head of corporate affairs Paul Davey said: “We are aware a bridge or a tunnel has been talked about as a possibility between Felixstowe and Harwich but we have no strong views on the proposal.”

Would a second crossing of the Orwell be a good idea or waste of money? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

FASTFACTS: A14 CAPACITY

The A14's maximum capacity is about 2,000 vehicles per hour per lane - 4,000 per hour per carriageway. At present it is between 2,750 and 3,200 vehicles on the Orwell Bridge per carriageway at peak times.

Highways chiefs say traffic flows over approximately 1,800 vehicles per hour per lane would be unstable and would be liable to random queuing. Such a situation happens on many major roads, including the A14 around Cambridge.

The figures refer to peak times and there would be quieter periods, too. About 30,000 vehicles a day use the A14 around Ipswich at present.

Highways experts say the extra traffic from port expansion at Felixstowe - one million more lorries a year - will not be enough to tip the balance, but the growth in car ownership, increase in population and visitors will push it to maximum capacity by 2012.

The A14 and A12 have been closed for more than 350 hours in the past two years, mainly due to accidents involving lorries, which are often serious and take time to clear up.

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