Ipswich/A14: Orwell Bridge safety is suffering from lack of ‘urgency’ from Highways Agency – claims MP

Orwell Bridge Orwell Bridge

Monday, April 7, 2014
7:00 AM

Pressure to overhaul safety measures at the Orwell Bridge to cut the risk of deaths was ramped up after Ipswich MP Ben Gummer slammed the Highways Agency for failing to address concerns.

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Mr Gummer’s intervention comes after a man fell to his death at the bridge last week, pushing the fatality figure at the three-decade old structure to 40 and prompting calls to revamp safety at the A14 site.

A police officer and a motorist reported seeing a man climbing on to the parapet before “going out of view” at around 11.30am on Tuesday.

The man was airlifted to hospital after coastguard teams and a rescue helicopter were called, but it is understood he was pronounced dead at the scene.

In the wake of the tragedy, Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, made the case for introducing anti-climb barriers, CCTV and sensors that trigger an alarm.

Her remarks have been echoed by Mr Gummer, who said he was “not convinced” the Highways Agency – who manage, maintain and improve the country’s major routes – have shown enough urgency to improve matters.

But a Highways Agency a spokesman refuted those claims, insisting they monitor the safety of the bridge and will act on any future recommendations.

It comes after figures released under Freedom of Information laws last year revealed people have either jumped off the Orwell Bridge, or attempted to, almost every seven weeks over three years.

The bridge opened in 1982. Its walls are 1.25metres high, deemed sufficient to prevent people from accidentally falling.

This year, two people have died after falling off the bridge. Police have been called to at least five incidents involving people on the parapet.

Mr Gummer said: “I have written, with Therese, to the Highways Agency asking them to have a reassessment of safety measures around the bridge because I am not convinced that it is working as well as it could.

“I am not convinced they have really looked at it as thoroughly as they should have done. They need to show a greater sense of urgency.

“I have not seen any evidence of them asking to see what other things can possibly be done which would mean fewer deaths.”

He added it was a “pity” that it took “another tragic death” to raise the issue, adding: “It should have been looked at a while ago. It is never going to be (completely safe) but it must be made more difficult (for people to jump). They need to cause delays so people can get to the scene to take them away. That is the critical thing.”

A Highways Agency spokesman said: “Our thoughts are with those affected by the tragic incident on the A14 Orwell Bridge on Tuesday.

“The Orwell Bridge provides an important public right of way across the bridge for pedestrians wishing to cross the estuary.

“Moreover, it allows road users to cross the river without travelling into the busy centre of Ipswich, as well as providing a safe means of access for workers maintaining the bridge.

“The bridge walls are 1.25m high, which is sufficient to prevent people from accidentally falling.

“Samaritan phones are provided on all pedestrian approaches to the bridge for use by people who feel they may need confidential emotional support.

“We will be interested to receive the MP’s comments and will give serious consideration to them.”

11 comments

  • In Suffolk the treatment of people with mental health problems is abysmal. It sometimes takes months for treatment, especially worrying as many if these people need very urgent attention. MP's need to start getting to the roots of this, and not tinkering around the edges.

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    Seahawk

    Monday, April 7, 2014

  • You never going to be able to stop this . If not at the bridge it will be some where else .. maybe a lot more care in the community

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    Lee mundy

    Monday, April 7, 2014

  • My partner recently wrote to MP Therese Coffey about the dreadful state of our Mental Health Services in Suffolk. The response from the MP was a postcard stating that she noted my partners comments! This to us demonstrates the complete lack of interest or concern by this Government in trying to help those with mental health issues, and shows yet again that these politicians live in their own fantasy world , oblivious to the needs if the people they represent.

    Report this comment

    Seahawk

    Tuesday, April 8, 2014

  • See this is why we need a change to our MPs.... a FoI request of last year detailed an incident every 7 weeks... they don't care. 2 deaths this year so far... previously, 1 death (citing the Ipswich Star's claim) thats 39 lives lost... sadly, its not until a rounded figure of 40 (the second this year so far) that anyone cares to do anything about it... not to mention the upcoming General Election... just scoring points. Both being conservative MPs is relevant. I don't know how many people who have died over the years from this bridge in recent times have been on benefits, forced to go to food banks even if in work or with mental health problems, but in these areas the conservatives are currently on the attack for both the vulnerable people in society and the poor working class. All Ben has to his name is his father (major emphasis) and that he has written a history book? Completely useless at being an MP!

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    Ipswich Entrepreneur

    Monday, April 7, 2014

  • I Agree with Ipswich Entrepreneur, although for me I really don't care if it is point scoring if changes are finally made! I also agree that mental health services in the whole country need to be improved massively. Not everyone who loses their life in this way is known to mental health services, in fact in many cases even those closest to them have no idea they are feeling this way. Attitudes towards mental health and suicide need to change to and comments like " they will just do it anyway" really doesn't help! As for allowing road users to avoid the "busy centre of Ipswich" whenever an incident like this occurs, all road users are forced to use the routes through the centre of Ipswich. Take away the footpath, widen the lanes, no one needs to walk across this bridge.

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    ME

    Monday, April 7, 2014

  • I Agree with Ipswich Entrepreneur, although for me I really don't care if it is point scoring if changes are finally made! I also agree that mental health services in the whole country need to be improved massively. Not everyone who loses their life in this way is known to mental health services, in fact in many cases even those closest to them have no idea they are feeling this way. Attitudes towards mental health and suicide need to change to and comments like " they will just do it anyway" really doesn't help! As for allowing road users to avoid the "busy centre of Ipswich" whenever an incident like this occurs, all road users are forced to use the routes through the centre of Ipswich. Take away the footpath, widen the lanes, no one needs to walk across this bridge.

    Report this comment

    ME

    Monday, April 7, 2014

  • It's another case of ignoring a real problem (poor health care) and trying to fix a technological thing instead. Yes you could put up anti-climb barriers are immense cost, but then they'd jump off another bridge, or onto railways, or under buses. The problem isn't the bridge, or any technological fix to prevent suicide from that particular place - the problem is what makes people want to commit suicide in the first place, and the Highways Agency cannot be responsible for that.

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    James M

    Monday, April 7, 2014

  • No need to make provisions to prevent people jumping off. In fact, at least when people choose this method to end their lives it brings it to the public attention. Perhaps the money used to implement additional barriers etc would be better used to fund support groups for those who suffer from mental issues

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    ipswichLAD

    Monday, April 7, 2014

  • The Bridge is not dangerous ! People have not accidentally fallen from it , so how and why should the Highways agency spend any money making it safer ?

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    Poppys Dad

    Monday, April 7, 2014

  • How about instead of wasting money on the roads, they put more money into helping the mentally ill. The reason for people "falling" off the bridge is because they are suicidal. If people didn't feel this way, they wouldn't throw themselves off the bridge. The only people who need to be blamed for this are the stupid people behind the mental health care on the NHS. GET MORE PEOPLE THE PROPER CORRECT CARE AND HELP THEY NEED AND THEY WON'T COMMIT SUICIDE!! It is really quite simply to be honest.

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    Megan Learmouth

    Monday, April 7, 2014

  • Why is there a pathway anyway, it's not like there was a path before the bridge!

    Report this comment

    Lee Davies

    Monday, April 7, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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