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“Radical solutions” needed to Ipswich’s congestion crisis as figures reveal annual £17m impact on town’s economy

PUBLISHED: 06:00 07 May 2018 | UPDATED: 08:26 08 May 2018

Roadworks at the Heath Road/Foxhall Road/Bixley Road roundabout were recently undertaken as part of a £5million package of improvements. Picture: ARCHANT

Roadworks at the Heath Road/Foxhall Road/Bixley Road roundabout were recently undertaken as part of a £5million package of improvements. Picture: ARCHANT

“Radical solutions” are needed to tackle Ipswich’s congestion crisis, the town’s MP has said, as new figures reveal traffic issues alone cost the local economy £17million per year.

Ipswich MP has said Ipswich MP has said "radical changes" to the town's traffic system are needed. Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS

Figures released under Freedom of Information laws revealed that a study carried out in 2008 by the East of England Development Agency found congestion would cost the Ipswich economy £17m annually by 2021 – a figure the town’s MP Sandy Martin said was already a “massive underestimate”.

He said: “The congestion in Ipswich is already costing the economy, and [the town’s] potential, of Ipswich an enormous amount. In my view we need some radical solutions – you cannot just carry out something at the edges, and I don’t think the government has realised just how important it is to have targeted bypasses in various locations.

“In the case of Ipswich this has national significance because of the Port of Felixstowe. I cannot understand why the government is still faffing around pretending this is a minor local matter.”

A £5m scheme has been underway over the last year to improve traffic flow at some of east Ipswich’s key junctions, but Suffolk County Council’s opposition Labour group said it was not convinced it had worked.

Labour group leader Sarah Adams. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILLabour group leader Sarah Adams. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Sarah Adams, Labour group leader, said: “It is important to ask whether the £5m spent on the project has been an effective use of public money, whether it will deliver all it promised, whether it will be successful in alleviating traffic congestion in our town.

“The works undertaken at Maryon Road and the Heath Road roundabout are not encouraging in this regard and some small businesses have ceased to trade due to the length of time they have taken to complete.

“The Conservatives at Suffolk County Council need to work more constructively with other key stakeholders in the town, not least Ipswich Borough Council, to ensure that Ipswich’s economy does not continue to be hit by unnecessary traffic congestion.

“They must also do more to encourage alternative modes of transport by providing designated, safe cycle lanes and affordable public transport.”

Heavy traffic along Grafton Way due to the closure of the Orwell bridge.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNHeavy traffic along Grafton Way due to the closure of the Orwell bridge. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Plans for 13,000 new homes and 17,000 new jobs in Ipswich up to 2026 will impact the road network.

A British Chamber of Commerce study found 85% of businesses in the East of England felt a good road network was vital to their business.

A spokeswoman from Suffolk County Council said the council was aware of key congestion points, and work was underway on a number of schemes.

“The proposed Upper Orwell Crossings will have a significant impact on congestion in and around the town centre and will provide greater sustainable connections for pedestrians and cyclists,” the spokeswoman said.

Heavy traffic along Grafton Way in Ipswich due to the closure of the Orwell bridge.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNHeavy traffic along Grafton Way in Ipswich due to the closure of the Orwell bridge. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“We are also developing a business case for improved routes to the north of the town and we are working with the business community to promote the need to make improvements to the A14.

“These strategic schemes will help address the medium and long term growth pressures on the highway network in and around Ipswich.

“Further local schemes and improved facilities for public transport, walking and cycling will be developed when the opportunity permits.”

Nick Burfield, policy director at Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “Ipswich’s economy is on the up and anything which acts as a brake on this momentum needs to be addressed.

“That is why Suffolk Chamber in Greater Ipswich welcomes Suffolk County Council’s South Eastern Ipswich Radial Corridor Improvements scheme which addresses specific problems along specific key roads, many of which have been highlighted as problem roads in our manifesto.”

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere said the worst of Ipswich’s congestion was seen during Orwell Bridge closures.

He said: “I think Suffolk County Council need to step back and look at what effect the work already done has had and whether it has made improvements.”

Mr Ellesmere said work had focused on getting traffic into town rather than out of town. He added: “It does need to be joined up what they are doing, and we do have concerns.”

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