Cars could be allowed over Orwell Bridge during high winds, but lorries banned
A traffic management plan to allow cars to continue to use the Orwell Bridge during high winds is being drawn up by highways chiefs, it has been revealed.
The plan, a filter system separating lorries and cars, is being designed by road bosses.
It could mean lorries are sent on diversions while cars are allowed to continue on their journeys over the bridge.
The idea for the plan has been revealed by Highways England in its response to a series of questions from Ipswich Borough Council’s overview and scrutiny committee.
But Highways England says that while Suffolk police and Suffolk County Council are supporting the idea, it did not mean it would be implemented.
Currently segregating lorries and other high-sided vehicles is considered “not viable” because of the road layout, but assessment was continuing to test the safety of options on the table.
Highways England said a traffic management plan and road signs were being designed to separate trucks onto the diversions and allow cars to carry on.
A spokesman said: “We are currently working with our partners within local authorities, emergency services and in local business to reach a solution to the high traffic caused every time the bridge is closed and devise a protocol which explains any closure, and details what we are doing to minimise any disruption caused.
“We will continue to work closely with everyone to realise further improvements as we realise the importance of the A14 and Orwell Bridge, not just for Ipswich but for all of Britain.”
Other measures being looked at include installing wind barriers on the bridge, but more detailed studies are needed to make sure it won’t create a wind tunnel effect.
But progress has been criticised by Sandra Gage, vice-chairman of the committee, who said the idea was first raised two years ago.
“I will be questioning what is holding this up, and asking on Thursday for Highways England to attend the October meeting of the committee to tell us whether they are prepared to trial letting cars through on windy days this winter,” she said.
Ipswich MP Sandy Martin said it strengthened the need for a Northern Bypass, and added: “Highways England still does not appear to have grasped the severity of the congestion caused in Ipswich when the Orwell Bridge is closed.
“For lorries leaving Felixstowe there have been occasions when it would have been easier and quicker for them to reach the Midlands via Lowestoft, rather than sitting in stationary queues in the centre of Ipswich.
“We have asked for multiple diversion routes, so that different alternative roads are used for different journeys, but Highways England and Suffolk County Council have ignored that request.”
A Suffolk County Council highways spokesman added: “All diversions routes must be planned carefully to ensure the safety of those travelling on them.
“A number of factors are considered when planning a diversion, such as height and weight restrictions, and the construction of the roads to ensure the route is suitable for all vehicles, big, small and abnormal.
“Highways England is responsible for the A14 and Orwell Bridge and we will continue to work with them by commenting and supporting on any proposals, with the aim of driving forward suitable alternatives for the area.”