A14 Orwell Bridge closures cost Ipswich '£1m a day'

gridlock Image copyright PAUL CLEMENT
Image caption Paul Clement tweeted an image of his sat-nav showing gridlock across Ipswich during Tuesday evening's rush-hour bridge closure

The closure of a bridge in high winds is costing a town £1m a day in lost trade, business leaders claim.

The Orwell Bridge in Suffolk - which carries the A14 over the river at Ipswich - was closed on Monday and Tuesday nights.

Paul Clement, of the Ipswich Central business group, said the "current situation is utterly ridiculous".

Highways England said the closure was due to "safety reasons" but it would continue to find a solution.

Image caption The bridge crosses the River Orwell between junctions 56 and 57 of the A14 and serves traffic using the Port of Felixstowe
Image caption The bridge was closed at 17:00 GMT on Tuesday and reopened at 03:00 GMT on Wednesday

Depending on wind direction, the bridge closes when wind speeds are likely to exceed 50mph (80km/h) to prevent high-sided lorries being blown over.

It was shut for six hours on Monday because of the effects of Storm Brendan - and for 10 hours on Tuesday.

When the bridge is closed, traffic is diverted through Ipswich town centre, causing major congestion.

'Complete bewilderment'

Ipswich Central called on Highways England to "sort what needs to be done - and do it".

Mr Clement said the £1m cost per day to the town's economy was calculated from estimates of lost sales and lost productivity.

"It is a combination of complete bewilderment, frustration and annoyance, not just at the closures, but at the frequency they happen," he said.

"Given this, the highways authorities' completely unnecessarily delay [in finding a solution] is unforgivable."

A Highways England spokesman said it did not take decisions to close "lightly".

"We are working to reach solutions to the high traffic caused in Ipswich. Separating vehicles [allowing cars to continue using the bridge, but not lorries] is not viable due to the road layout - there is not an obvious filter point, such as a roundabout, at which to split them."

The authority and City University, London, are carrying out an aerodynamic study into wind impacts on the Orwell Bridge, which is set to report its findings next month.

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