We need to be realistic about the region’s transport needs

Traffic backs up on Colchester Road in Ipswich due to Orwell Bridge's closure on Wednesday.

Traffic backs up on Colchester Road in Ipswich due to Orwell Bridge's closure on Wednesday.

Last week’s storms caused major road chaos in Ipswich with the closure of the Orwell Bridge forcing thousands of extra vehicles on to the town’s already-busy roads.

This has led to the predictable cry of “something must be done” and a certain amount of blame-seeking as everyone tries to prevent a similar situation in the future.

But amidst all these calls we need to retain a sense of proportion and an understanding of what it might be possible to do.

Tim Passmore and Graham Newman are quite right to be calling a meeting between the police, county council and Highways Agency to try to come up with a way of easing congestion and preventing the closure of the bridge.

But we have to accept that some proposed solutions are totally unrealistic and are frankly not worthwhile spending time considering at the moment.

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The northern bypass isn’t going to happen for decades (if ever) so there’s no point in banging on about it.

It might look like a great idea as a line on the map, but the impact on the villages would ensure there was a very long planning battle – even assuming the money was available.

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And the cost would be considerably more than £100 million, far above the budget of any regional body for a single project.

Looking at the pictures of devastation from this winter, does anyone seriously think the government is going to chuck £100 million-plus to ease congestion in Ipswich on days when the Orwell Bridge is closed when the entire West Country is cut off from the rail network and thousands of homes in the Thames Valley are suffering from flooding?

Get real!

That is not to say nothing can be done. Introducing a speed limit on the bridge should cut the number of accidents on it, and it might be possible to eventually bring in a flexible speed limit so vehicles could continue to use it at a lower speed during high winds.

It may be possible to set up holding areas for large lorries to the west of the bridge – although the practicalities of that might be limited for drivers with the tacograph ticking away.

And better information might make life easier – it you know the bridge is likely to be closed because of high winds and your journey isn’t strictly necessary then maybe it would be better to stay at home.

That’s not particularly comforting, I know, but then this hasn’t been a particularly comfortable winter.

The fact is that few people in Suffolk and north Essex have suffered major disruption – especially in comparison to those whose plight has featured on the news in recent weeks.

Road congestion is an inconvenience, but it’s not the end of the world!

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