A14 Orwell Bridge closure plans revealed

Orwell Bridge, Ipswich
Image caption The 18 closures of the Orwell Bridge since 2013 amounted to 125 hours

Cars could be allowed to use a major bridge in high winds to avoid costly closures, a new report has suggested.

The A14 Orwell Bridge at Ipswich has been shut 18 times since October 2013, due to high winds.

Proposals, including limiting speeds and introducing single file traffic, have been suggested after a nine-month aerodynamic study, reports the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

No specific plans have been approved yet and further studies will be done.

The bridge is closed to prevent the risk of high-sided vehicles being blown over, but traffic has to then be diverted through Ipswich which creates huge tailbacks.

Ipswich Central, the business organisation, has estimated a bridge closure costs the town's economy £1m per day.

Statistics do not include bridge closures that are a result of accidents or breakdowns.

The bridge closes when wind speeds are likely to exceed the threshold of 50mph (80km/h), depending on the wind direction.

Documents produced for Ipswich Borough Council's scrutiny committee show that Highways England is looking at the possibility of implementing a 40mph (64 km/h) speed limit and will do wind tunnel testing.

Image caption The Bridge has been closed due to high winds 18 times since October 2013
Image copyright Mike Page
Image caption The A14 Orwell Bridge links the Port of Felixstowe to London and the Midlands

A Highways England spokesman said: "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 only the eastbound lanes open.

On Tuesday, Ipswich Conservative MP Tom Hunt said he was "buoyed" by a meeting with Highways England in which he read the full report.

He said: "They seem to be pretty determined to try and do something, and hopefully do something so that certainly by next winter we are not in a position to have to close the bridge to all vehicles in high winds."

The full aerodynamic study report has not yet been made public.

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