Demands for action on A14 as blocked drain causes ‘unacceptable’ closure
- Credit: HIGHWAYS ENGLAND
The closure of the A14 due to a blocked drain - which caused a 13-mile tailback - has been branded as “unacceptable” by community leaders.
Highways England closed the westbound carriageway between Copdock and Claydon between 5.30am and 8am because of poor visibility and driving conditions as a result of flooding.
It left furious motorists queuing for miles, with reports that journeys of just a handful of miles took well over an hour.
It later emerged that a blocked drain was the reason for the closure.
A spokesman from Highways England said: "Police were attending the area anyway due to a collision, and they cleared some debris which was blocking the drain.
"After that it began to clear and we could reopen the A14 by 8am. Our contractors attended but were informed of the police work once they arrived and it was already starting to clear."
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The closure has prompted fresh questions from business leaders, who have demanded action over the route.
Terry Baxter - chairman of Ipswich Central, which represents businesses in the town - said: "It's clearly unacceptable.
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"Apart from anything else the A14 is the major link between one of Europe's most significant ports and the rest of the country, so to have a situation where we have 13-mile of tailbacks is clearly unacceptable.
"Again, it's an evocation of how we are not being best served by Highways England.
"We know for some time we have been waiting for the outcome of a report into improvements to the Orwell Bridge to avoid closures, that is long overdue.
"This is further evidence we are being let down by Highways England ensuring that the appropriate maintenance is taking place."
Mr Baxter said it was causing issues with businesses wanting to invest in Suffolk.
Weatherquest recorded overnight rainfall of 23mm in Charsfield between 11pm Tuesday and 9am Wednesday, and 13mm in Wattisham and Cavendish.
Adam Dury, from Weatherquest, said it was a "fair bit of rain falling in a shortish space of time" but was not anything out of the ordinary.
The New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and Suffolk Chamber of Commerce both said they were pushing for continued improvements to the A14.
Suffolk Chamber chief executive John Dugmore said: "Scenes of miles and miles of queuing traffic like the ones witnessed on Wednesday happen all too frequently along the A14 in Suffolk.
"Whether due to Orwell Bridge closures, flooding incidents or accidents at the key junctions, these show that our stretch of the A14 - a vital economic highway between the Port of Felixstowe and the Midlands Engine and the Northern Powerhouse - is inadequate and vulnerable to such disruptions.
"Not only are businesses losing money and orders being delayed, but the reputation of the county has a great place to do business is being undermined."
Part of the road has been included in Highways England's long-term vision to become an expressway - a route that would essentially allow that portion to be a motorway - but funding for those improvements have not yet been announced because of the general election delaying progress.
Mr Dugmore added: "Once the general election is over, rest assured we, and our many partners, will be pushing hard for as early a financial commitment to improve the A14 in Suffolk as possible."
Highways England has been contacted for comment and asked how frequently the A14 drains are maintained, as well as how the issue was allowed to happen in the first place.