We're going nowhere

IN what could be the worst week of crashes Suffolk has witnessed during recent years, the A14 had to be closed FIVE times in just five days. Features editor TRACEY SPARLING asks how hard it hits us, if the county's main artery is blocked?THIS week of July 24 will be imprinted in the memory of many Suffolk motorists for weeks to come.

By Tracey Sparling

IN what could be the worst week of crashes Suffolk has witnessed during recent years,

the A14 had to be closed FIVE times in just five days. Features editor TRACEY SPARLING asks how hard it hits us, if the county's main artery is blocked?

THIS week of July 24 will be imprinted in the memory of many Suffolk motorists for weeks to come.

We witnessed major delays and diversions on the A14, and not least a driver's life was wiped out in an instant as their car ended up under a lorry yesterday and burst in to flames.

On an almost daily basis, the road was brought to a standstill as the emergency services dealt with the aftermath of several crashes. Police investigations had to be pursued at the scenes, and vehicles recovered, before the road could be reopened each time.

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After a particularly bad accident at Newmarket on Wednesday, police superintendent Mike Shields stressed how important it was to keep traffic flowing: “A closure of a road such as the A14 is a huge logistical challenge. One of our main priorities is to keep traffic moving and clear the initial backlog.”

Yet beyond the immediate issues of life and death, with the subsequent investigation, lie ripples of after effects which spread across our county.

They either hit us directly if we are caught up in traffic, or indirectly through things like cancelled meetings and delayed deliveries.

Yesterday morning's accident meant truckers were expected to arrive at the Port of Felixstowe much later than anticipated - and the port immediately braced itself to deal with many late arrivals and a possible backlog between 4.30pm and 6.30pm. Delays at the port, lead to delays for us as consumers when it comes to getting our goods to the shops.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said the impact spread further than the services directly involved with crash scenes, like the fire service. Deliveries to council departments and services can be delayed if the road is closed, and all companies suffer if their staff can't get in and out of work.

Hauliers, taxi and coach companies would also have had journeys delayed, and some passengers were disappointed to sit in traffic during day trips.

In Ipswich, Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Dugmore was one of many people having to cancel meetings, because the A14 was blocked and his visitors couldn't get through from the Cambridge direction.

He said: “One estimated he would be an hour late because of the traffic problems, and I will probably cancel my other appointment. The problem is the A14 is the main artery road through Suffolk, and once that's blocked by an accident it certainly affects business in many ways.

“Delays cause people to be late, and deliveries of goods to be late, so there is an inevitable cost in both financial and practical terms. The other problem can be when the Orwell Bridge gets closed, and maybe it is time to look again at the idea of a bypass?

“The expansion of Felixstowe is excellent news but it does mean we are going to have to improve Suffolk's infrastructure including the road system and rail links. Unfortunately Suffolk has been proven to be the poor relation in the UK, and certainly the East of England, when it comes to investing in infrastructure - it pays more in taxes than it gets back from the national 'pot.'”

He added: “With the population of Suffolk steadily growing, we have to ensure we get the key artery route working properly. It's not about adding more lanes to the A14, but more about ensuring it flows freely and looking at the feeder roads too. It's more environmentally friendly to make longer journeys on freer roads, than get traffic jams.

“We do somehow need to make improvements, without sending traffic through the villages.”


Was your week ruined by the A14 closures? What do you think the solution is?

Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

As Monday morning dawned, the driver of a 44-ton lorry crashed through a barrier and overturned at the Copdock Interchange of the A12 and A14 at 7am. A 60ft crane was brought in within 20 minutes, to haul the lorry back on to its wheels and free the trapped driver whose life hung in the balance but is now recovering. A section of the A14 was CLOSED and diversions set up.

A motorcyclist and a car driver were also injured in a collision in Bramford Road, Little Blakenham, at around 3.15pm on Monday. The woman driver of a Mazda car suffered back injuries and was taken to Ipswich Hospital by air ambulance. The motorcyclist suffered injuries to his leg, arm and chest and both carriageways of the road were CLOSED.

On Wednesday, a lorry jacknifed on the M11 at 1.45am and the road was blocked until 9am, causing long delays for holidaymakers heading for Stansted Airport and then the region's emergency services

Headed to the A14. Both sides of the A14 were CLOSED for 20 hours, after a gas cylinder in a van blew up near Newmarket at 8am - it happened near two petrol stations. Traffic quickly choked the roads for miles around as diversions were employed. This A14 closure was described by Highways Agency chiefs as one of the most disruptive closures for years because it inconvenienced an estimated 80,000 drivers, and giant message boards warning of the incident were put up as far away as Birmingham and on all major routes heading in to Suffolk.

Suffolk's worst car crash in a decade claimed its fifth life on Wednesday when Kim Abbott, 41, from Yoxford died in hospital more than three weeks after the July 1 crash on the A12 near Blythburgh.

The A14 reopened on Thursday morning, thanks to an unlikely hero - the army's bomb disposal machine - known as the wheelbarrow - which was able to get inside the van and spray water directly on to the acetylene canister they feared might explode.

A woman was taken to hospital on Thursday after a crash between a lorry and a car on the Stowmarket-bound A14 at Risby, just after 2.20pm. The impact caused the car to spin off the road and into a ditch. It is not believed the woman was seriously injured. Traffic was temporarily brought to a standstill but the road was not shut.

On Friday morning a motorist died as their car and a lorry collided, before bursting into flames on the Copdock-bound carriageway of the A14 near Asda. Two further accidents occurred, behind the one involving the lorry and the car. Around 50 yards away, a white transit van ended up on its side. Another 50 yards behind that, a pick-up truck with a trailer carrying a digger ploughed down a bank at the roadside, ending up in trees. Drivers using the A14 were caught up in long tailbacks and the Felixstowe-bound carriageway was CLOSED.

Motorists also faced delays on the A14 on Friday following a crash near Newmarket. One lane of the Cambridgeshire-bound carriageway was CLOSED at the Stow Cum Quy junction.