Highways England have completed their safety validation work so we at least now know that at some point soon we will touch wood be turning our back on frequent closures of the Orwell Bridge. However I remain dissatisfied with how long this has all taken and I will continue to push for the new measures to be implemented as soon as possible. Following pressure that has been applied it now seems likely that Highways England may be working to deliver the changes ahead of the end of March deadline they set themselves a few weeks ago.
I was promised in January that they would deliver the changes at the start of winter not the end. Next week I will be meeting with the Roads Minister to discuss the timeline for delivery. I will provide more updates soon.
Written a letter today to the Transport Secretary about Highways England and their performance over the past 2 years or so regarding the Orwell Bridge. In October 2018 they launched a report into what do about bridge closures that was delayed by 6 months and now the timeline for implementing the recommendations of that report has also been significantly delayed. I was promised that a new 40mph speed limit would be introduced ahead of the 2020/2021 winter season but now they are suggesting a completion date of end of March 2021.
I have previously raised before in the House of Commons and am currently applying to hold a special debate in Parliament on the matter. As I mention in the letter I also plan to meet the Transport Secretary.
Ultimately its all of us who have to pay the price for the price for all these broken promises. Not Highways England.
I have now received an email in response to my letter to City University about the wind tunnel. I am glad that it looks like the appropriate work in relation to the Orwell Bridge will now take place next month which should allow the timetable regarding the introduction of the new speed limit that will help keep the bridge open during windy spells to be hit. This is all rather protracted but I will continue to keep my eye on things and update.
Once this final validation is secured that its safe to keep the bridge open during windy spells with a new 40pmh speed limit then we will move a big step forward towards ending the chaos associated with constant bridge closures
Following last week’s meeting with Highways England on implementing the speed limit solution to the closures of the Orwell Bridge, I have now written to City University of London about the urgency of getting their wind tunnel up and running to complete the final safety checks.
The wind tunnel is currently closed and I do have concerns that this could become an issue which causes the timeline for implementing the solution to slip. That’s why it’s important we get on top of this now.
I appreciate that City University is dealing with Covid-19 pressures but I have asked the President of the University to ensure that work starts on this important piece of work as soon as possible. We mustn’t go into the windiest months of another year without a solution in place.
I have just posted off a letter to Highways England regarding the current situation with the Orwell Bridge, I have sent a copy of my letter to the Transport Secretary. This follows the recent publication of the report into the Orwell Bridge by Highways England and recent closures. Though on the one hand its good to see that this time next year there will likely be no more wind related closures of the Orwell Bridge because of the new speed restriction, it is frustrating that it will likely take an extended period of time for these new measures to be introduced, meaning that in the short term there will be no relief.
I do not believe that Highways England have embraced this issue with the urgency required. Closures of the bridge cause major disruption for my constituents and taking 14 months to produce the study was unacceptable. You can understand that when Highways England massively overrun on the time they said it would take to produce the report, that many of us are concerned that Highways England will take a long time to introduce the measures outlined in the study. In my letter I have been clear that I will be monitoring the situation closely and would like to have regular meeting to check progress. Some of the contents of the report were encouraging but we need quick action, not more dithering and delay. The reality is that the wind this weekend was so strong that even with a reduce speed limit this weekend closure may have been necessary.
Not all closures of the wind are linked to the strength of the wind and many other factors connected to the Bridge clearly need to be explored. Its also very frustrating to be told that introducing a 40mph speed limit is the solution when this could have been done years ago and how much disruption and damage to the local economy could have been avoided?
I remember last October when it was announced that Highways England had commissioned an aerodynamics study looking at the ways in which closures of the Orwell Bridge could be minimized and what measures could be introduced to prevent closures of the bridge at times of high winds.