The MP for Ipswich Tom Hunt has secured time to discuss issues around the closures for high winds causing “massive disruption” in Suffolk’s County Town.
The Ipswich Star reports Mr Hunt will raise the matter during Thursday afternoon’s adjournment debate in the House of Commons, highlighting the importance of a solution being delivered and the urgency in which he says measures should be carried out.
Highways England is working on a 40mph speed limit on the bridge during high winds, which will increase the threshold for closure from 50mph up to 70mph, reducing the number of times the bridge needs to be shut. However implementation has slipped from a planned start date this autumn to next March.
Mr Hunt told the Ipswich Star, “The Orwell Bridge closures cause massive disruption for Ipswich residents, particularly over the winter period when it is windiest, and it’s right the issue now has specific time set aside in Parliament for it to be debated.
“Highways England are currently talking about the end of March for getting this speed limit in place, but given how long Ipswich residents have had to wait for this, and given the promises that have previously been made about it being in place before this winter, Highways England need to display more ambition and urgency,” he added.
The paper says Mr Hunt met with roads minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton on Tuesday to highlight how crucial the measures were – particularly given its importance in allowing freight traffic to travel unhindered to and from the Port of Felixstowe.
Simon Amor, head of planning and development at Highways England, told the paper work on the bridge itself will start early in the new year, and likely to take between six and eight weeks to complete, mostly with overnight working. “When we first introduce the scheme we may operate it relatively conservatively and as we learn more about it we may be able to expand the tolerances and may be able to operate it in even stronger winds.
“The scheme doesn’t mean we will keep it open in all winds – there will still be winds of certain strengths or certain directions when we will have to close the bridge but hopefully we can keep it open a lot more frequently than we can at the moment.”
(Picture credit – Highways England)