Orwell Bridge fully reopens after high winds closed A14 over the river and caused traffic disruption for thousands around Ipswich
- Credit: Archant
Relieved motorists should now see the roads around Ipswich clearing after the Orwell Bridge was fully reopened.
Shortly after 12.30pm it was opened to eastbound traffic having been closed since the early hours of today. The westbound side reopened around an hour later.
The chaos caused by the closure before, during and after the rush hour, has affected thousands of motorists with reports of journey times tripling for people trying to get to work.
Threat of high winds caused the closure
Gusts of up to 50mph battered the Suffolk coast, with forecasts expecting winds until around 10am.
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Highways England yesterday confirmed the bridge would remain shut during rush hour.
The A14 was closed in both directions between junction 55 for the Copdock Interchange and junction 58 for Seven Hills from 1am.
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A diversion was put in place through Ipswich via the ring road and past Trinity Park.
Motorists were being advised to allow extra time for their journey for the additional traffic through Ipswich, which includes large goods vehicles.
Main routes gridlocked by diverted traffic
As a result, a number of key routes were heavily congested including Bucklesham Road, Felixstowe Road, Colchester Road and Foxhall Road on the east side of town, with queuing traffic into town along Bishops Hill and Fore Street.
On the west side of town, motorists reported that Norwich Road and Valley Road was gridlocked heading into town.
Heavy traffic also caused delays heading eastbound on the A14 between junctions 52 and 55, just before the diversion, as well as London Road from the A12 Copdock Interchange as a result of the Orwell Bridge closure.
Traffic was also stop-start on the A12 northbound between junction 31 at East Bergholt and junction 33 for the Copdock Interchange.
Bridge could only reopen when “safe to do so”
Suffolk police this morning reported that a tree has come down on the B1127 in Henstead, near St Mary’s Church, which is causing one lane to be blocked.
A police spokesman said local authority contractors were heading to the scene to clear the road.
Yesterday, A Highways England spokesman said: “The bridge will remain closed until the high winds subside. Based on the current forecast the closure is very likely to extend into rush hour in the morning until at least 8am.
“Highways England will continue to monitor wind speeds closely and will reopen the bridge as soon as it is safe to do so.
“Drivers planning to travel during the current severe weather are encouraged to plan their journey in advance and check the latest weather and traffic conditions along the route.
“Drivers should be aware of sudden gusts of wind, and give high-sided vehicles, caravans, motorbikes and bicycles plenty of space.”
Winds of 45mph and 38mph recorded in Essex and Suffolk
Forecasters at Weatherquest said the highest recorded at one of its stations was 45mph at Shoeburyness in Essex, while the 38mph was the strongest recorded at Wattisham – the closest monitoring station to the bridge.
Chris Bell, Weatherquest forecaster, said: “I wouldn’t doubt that along the coast and getting towards Lowestoft way did get gusts of 50mph.
“Areas on the coast you can get some quite big differences to areas in land.”
Ipswich Borough Council meanwhile was evaluating a late opening of Christchurch, Holywells and Alexandra parks, as well as the Old, New and Lawn cemeteries as a result of the bad weather, although a borough council spokesman said all will open as normal.
“We have opened the parks and cemeteries as the wind conditions locally are not as bad as we had thought,” the spokesman added.
“But we still advise people to take care while they are out and about this morning.”
What are your views on today’s traffic chaos? Do you agree with the bridge closure? Does it strengthen calls for a northern bypass for Ipswich? Let us know by emailing us here or call 01473 324788.