Will coronavirus delay Orwell Bridge wind closure trial?
PUBLISHED: 05:30 08 May 2020
Highways bosses behind plans for a 40mph trial on the Orwell Bridge during high winds have said the project is still on course for this winter, despite the coronavirus disruptions.
Highways England unveiled the results of its nine-month aerodynamic study in January, and at a meeting of Ipswich Borough Council’s scrutiny committee confirmed it was planning to trial 40mph speed limits during high winds in time for winter.
A spokesman confirmed it was still working to that timeline, despite the upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
MORE: The four Orwell Bridge wind closure measures being pursued
“We are doing all we can to take this important work forward as planned despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
“Atkins our design consultant are currently carrying out the feasibility and design of the 40mph speed reduction under high winds.”
It is understood the upgrades to existing speed cameras are not an issue, but some legal legwork needs to take place to allow the trial to go ahead.
Currently the bridge requires shutting when winds reach 50mph or more, which diverts A14 traffic through the town centre and causes severe disruption for the town, as well as economic losses.
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The 40mph speed limit would mean the bridge could stay open in winds of up to 70mph.
Had that been in place, 15 of the last 18 wind-related closures would not have been needed.
Other options being explored by Highways England include just using land two in both directions – the lanes closest to the centre of the bridge, whether the eastbound carriageway could stay open entirely and further wind tunnel testing to establish if parapets would help.
However, Highways England confirmed that City, University of London which carried out the aerodynamic study and was conducting the wind tunnel testing was on a full shutdown from the coronavirus pandemic, so alternative solutions for wind tunnel testing were being explored.
Councillor Paul West, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for Ipswich, said it was important progress continued with the bridge as the A14 was vital for freight transport.
“It’s crucially important,” he said.
“We have seen it get progressively worse over the past few years, and we were encouraged earlier in the year when we heard from Highways England.
“It may have been kicked off some people’s agenda but we are encouraged they are on the case still, and we are very much looking forward to seeing changes.”
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