Police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore sticks to Orwell Bridge speed limit reduction plans despite objection from Therese Coffey

The Orwell Bridge

The Orwell Bridge - Credit: Archant

Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner is sticking to plans to reduce the speed limit on one of the county’s busiest roads – despite objections from MP Therese Coffey.

Tim Passmore said proposals by the Highways Agency (HA) to reduce the speed limit on the Orwell Bridge to 50mph from 70mph will still be going ahead, in a bid to improve safety between Wherstead and Nacton.

Dr Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, yesterday announced her objection to the plans.

As part of the plans, there will also be changes to slip road speed limits, including at the Shell service station on the westbound carriageway – identified as a factor in a number of “shunts” on the Orwell Bridge.

In a letter to HA, Dr Coffey said a technical note produced by HA in March 2013 put forward a reduction to 60mph and suggested reducing the speed limit to 50mph was not viable, and questioned whether average speed cameras were “truly necessary.”

The new speed limit will be in place by the end of the financial year, with the speed cameras coming in at a later date once planning permission is obtained.

Dr Coffey added: “It (the technical note) showed the average speed at certain times of the day was already 50mph and by reducing it to 50mph, the economic benefit of reduced collisions is significantly outweighed by that of longer journey times.

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“There would be a significant impact with backup delays elsewhere.

“I have also received representations from constituents concerned about the reduction from 70mph to 50mph with their concerns about causing accidents elsewhere and increasing journey times.

However, Dr Coffey was in favour of signs being put up encouraging drivers to stay in lane while crossing the bridge.

Yesterday, Mr Passmore said: “Therese is quite entitled to make her objection.

“Everybody is going to have a view on this.

“We need to look at the issues of accidents, particularly on the crossings.

“There is chaos and pandemonium caused if the road is closed, in Ipswich. It’s intolerable.

“It’s all about trying to keep the traffic moving.”

Mr Passmore said the proposals were a combination of cross sector working between HA, Suffolk County Council Highways and Suffolk Constabulary, and that he believed the cost of delays to the economy was “enormous.”

He added: “The other issue is the slip road speed limit, which will be enforced by the constabulary.

“The road is of huge international importance, and we need something we all agree will make a positive difference.

“There’s not many times you can do 70mph over the crossing.

“It’ll take an extra couple of minutes. You can spend ages sitting there if there’s an accident, as I found out getting to work this morning.

“We have listened to what the experts have said, I’m advised this is the best way forward and the most effective way to keep the traffic moving.”

He also said calls to banning agricultural vehicles from the crossing would not be happening, as they are important to the area.

“I’m not going to penalise farmers, they have just as much right as anyone else to use the road,” Mr Passmore added.

“Longer term solutions like extra lanes are years away and we need to do something now.

“We can’t be waiting.

“There’s no easy solution to this, but it’s the decision we have made. I’m quite comfortable this is the best way forward.

“Everyone has a view, which is fine.

“I fully accept not everybody is going to be happy, but you can’t please everybody all of the time.”