Shock rise in Orwell Bridge traffic
By Danielle NuttallTRAFFIC using the Orwell Bridge has more than doubled in the past 20 years, the East Anglian Daily Times can reveal.More than 50,000 vehicles a day now cross the bridge, on the outskirts of Ipswich, compared to 20,000 when it was first completed in 1982.
By Danielle Nuttall
TRAFFIC using the Orwell Bridge has more than doubled in the past 20 years, the East Anglian Daily Times can reveal.
More than 50,000 vehicles a day now cross the bridge, on the outskirts of Ipswich, compared to 20,000 when it was first completed in 1982.
The figures were revealed as the Highways Agency undertakes an eight-week survey of the huge structure, which will enable road bosses to establish what future maintenance is needed.
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It has prompted calls from the business community for an improved transport infrastructure to ease the pressure placed on the Orwell Bridge.
Bob Feltwell, chief executive of the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “The figures clearly demonstrate the need for a proper system for transport infrastructure in the area. There are two proposals the chamber would like to see happen.
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“One is the northern bypass - a link from the A14 to A12 - and the other is a new route all the way up to Lowestoft from Ipswich.
“The road network can cope, but there needs to be an alternative route for the A14 in case there's ever problems, on the Orwell Bridge in particular.
“At the moment with all these accidents the cost is to the business community and to the people of Suffolk. Most people you talk to are having to rethink journeys they're going to make and appointments and it causes general disruption.”
Guy McGregor, the Suffolk County Council portfolio holder for roads and transport, described the increase in traffic movement as “amazing”.
He added the county council was carrying out a “desktop exercise” to examine transport options for the future on the Newmarket to Felixstowe stretch of the A14.
The results of the study, which includes a look at the northern bypass, are expected to be revealed in the middle of July.
Mr McGregor, who recently called for the county council to take back responsibility for the A14 from the Highways Agency, said: “We've still got to go for better management of the A14 and the repairs - that's got to be the short-term situation.
“The road simply has to be managed better and the rail link needs to be upgraded. That must be our first priority. But there's no doubt about it, a bypass for northern Ipswich in the long term must figure into it.”
The survey has involved the closure of a lane in both directions on the bridge, resulting in long queues for motorists using the A14.
But Highways Agency bosses said last night they had not found any major problems in the initial part of the survey that would require severe roadworks in the future.
Iain Rusholme, project manager with WS Atkins, which is overseeing the maintenance, said: “We currently have not found anything major, but we need to do further testing. We should find that out in a month's time.
“What we have found so far corresponds with what we would expect with a bridge of this age - bits of it are 25 years old.
“Generally the traffic has moved quite freely over the bridge. There are delays as people are down to one lane rather than two. We have not had any real blockages.
“I think it's generally something like a 10-minute to 30-minute delay. You will always have ongoing maintenance work with a structure as large as this.”
The work began on June 4 and is expected to last until the end of July. Long queues on the A14 have prompted many motorists to go into Ipswich to avoid a build-up of traffic, and this has caused congestion in the town.
This is the fourth time the Orwell Bridge has been inspected since it opened in 1982.
Brian Pitkin, Highways Agency project manager, said: “What we are doing at the moment is a principle inspection of the bridge, an annual MoT test.
“If we do not have our MoT done, then eventually faults will develop unexpected. We are trying to manage the maintenance in future on the bridge.”