TW•If only the nimbys to the north hadn't made such a fuss all those years ago Ipswich would already have a northern bypass and none of this disruption would be anywhere near as serious. Lets hope they aren't listed to this time around as it will be catastrophic on so many levels if the region does not eliminate the Orwell Bridge / Ipswich bottle neck from its key infrastructure soon. Oh and with all the thousands of trucks we keep getting diverted through Ipswich, three times so far in just the first three weeks of 2020, how long before they have the inevitable accident somewhere along the diversion route and we see something serious such as a home destroyed or loss of life of motorist, cyclist or pedestrian? If I was the person at Highways England who keeps making the decision to close the bridge strategically and then very deliberately send thousands and thousands of trucks through residential areas I would struggle to sleep at night.
- A review of implementing a 40mph speed limit during high winds will get underway.
- A study in allowing the eastbound carriageway to stay open entirely will also take place.
- That further wind tunnel testing would be carried out to investigate the potential for parapets on the side of the bridge.
According to Highways England: "The difference between travelling at 40mph is considerably different than at 60mph" and added: "The parapets at the edge of the deck may provide significant wind shielding to vehicles, and needs further experimental testing".
The presentation documents said that lane one of the westbound carriageway was most at risk during high winds, which is why Highways England plans to further assess keeping the eastbound lanes open.
What Ipswich MP Tom Hunt thinks
On Tuesday, Ipswich MP Tom Hunt said he was "buoyed" by a meeting with Highways England in which he read the full report.
"There are some short term solutions they have and long term solution they have as well.
"They seem to be pretty determined to try and do something, and hopefully do something that certainly by next winter we are not in a position to have to close the bridge to all vehicles in high winds."
That doesn't include closures as a result of accidents or breakdowns.
What was involved in the study?
The wind speed closure thresholds have not been reviewed since the bridge opened in 1982, according to the report.
The study, carried out by experts at City, University of London, featured detailed modelling of the bridge and use of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to model wind movements - the kind of technology used by Formula 1 teams in developing their cars.
A timeline on the next stages of work have not yet been outlined in the documents available.
A date on the full report being published has also not yet been disclosed.
Highways England had originally been expected to publish its findings last autumn, and came under criticism for the delays.
It also meant that no solutions would be in place in time for this winter, which has already seen three wind related closures totalling nearly 23 hours.
Speaking during the closure on January 13, Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement said: "Businesses, their customers and their staff continue to be united in their frustration at the continued closures of the bridge while other similar structures around the country remain open.
"We have calculated our businesses lose up to £1million every day the bridge is shut and given this, the highways authorities completely unnecessarily delay is unforgiveable.
"The current situation is just utterly ridiculous and doesn't happen elsewhere."
Highways England did carry out some short term improvements to its closure protocol a couple of years ago, which now means it can close or re-open the bridge within 20 minutes, instead of the 50 minutes previously.
It also reduced the length of the closure to the length of the bridge itself, rather than several junctions before and after which diverted traffic into town earlier.
Elsewhere, it has updated its methods of communicating bridge closures, including a frequent presence on social media and a dedicated web page, as well as encouraging the Port of Felixstowe to cancel truck movements to keep HGVs off the road.