Work to stop Orwell Bridge closures may not be finished until spring
PUBLISHED: 06:00 18 October 2020 | UPDATED: 16:19 18 October 2020
Just days after Highways England told MPs and councillors that they were “on schedule” to make changes to the Orwell Bridge over the winter to reduce the risk of closure, it has emerged that they have told the county council that it will not be finished until the end of March.
At this month’s meeting of the Ipswich Traffic Taskforce, chaired by MP Tom Hunt, the government agency said work would start at the beginning of January and should be finished by the end of the month.
However, county council cabinet member for highways Andrew Reid has told fellow councillors he was told in August that the work had been delayed and would not be finished until the end of March – after the normal windy season has finished.
Mr Hunt said: “I was not in the meeting between Highways England and Suffolk County Council in August about the Orwell Bridge, but I am concerned to hear that Highways England told council officials that the speed limit solution to the bridge closures won’t be in place until the end of March because of delays to the wind tunnel work.
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“I was, however, in Ipswich Transport Taskforce’s meeting last week with Highways England alongside Dr Dan Poulter MP and a number of district and county councillors. In this meeting, we were led to believe that work would start in early January with a view to having the speed limit in place by late January. And that work in the wind tunnel had not held up the overall timetable for delivering this crucial project.
“I will be pushing Highways England for further clarification over the coming days and holding them to the schedule they set out to us in the Taskforce meeting. This solution being delivered in January is already later than we’d have liked, but not having it until the end of March would be completely unacceptable.
“My constituents and I were led to believe by Highways England that the last windy winter period would be the last one where we faced severe disruption caused by the closures, and that it wouldn’t be the case this time round.
He said a solution by the end of March wouldn’t achieve this and he wanted reassurances from Highways England that this isn’t the case.
“I’ll continue to be active on this issue in Parliament and I’ll be working on the basis that what Highways England said in the Transport Taskforce meeting is what will happen. I’ll also be meeting with the Transport Secretary to discuss it.”
We made several attempts to contact Highways England, but there was no response to our calls.
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