Highways England fail to provide key data on Orwell Bridge
Bosses behind a major aerodynamic study which will determine future measures to prevent wind closures on the Orwell Bridge have failed to provide key results data promised to a local council.
Highways England had been due to present the findings of the nine-month aerodynamic study carried out by experts at City, University of London, which would determine whether the bridge could remain open in high winds, to Ipswich Borough Council’s scrutiny committee on Thursday evening.
But the study results were not presented to the committee because technical details had not been assessed.
The study is also assessing whether wind breaks could be used, whether cars could be allowed and whether reduced speed limits could help keep the bridge open.
Councillor Liz Harsant, chairman of the scrutiny committee, said: “They have received the report from City University [on October 14] but because it was so late they didn’t want any of our questions prior to their commenting on it.
“On the 22 October, Russell Williams [chief executive] spoke to [Highways England service delivery manager] Roy Doe and he said his directors had not got through the main technical summary of the report, which rather amazes me, so he didn’t feel he could come.”
According to Ms Harsant, Highways England has accepted an invitation to visit the committee on January 2.
Ms Harsant added: “We have asked for the report to be sent prior to Christmas so we can read it.
“I am amazed they couldn’t have sent it before then – to say they haven’t had time to read the summary doesn’t seem quite right.”
Earlier in the month, Suffolk County Council reported that the results promised for them this month did not arrive.
Sandra Gage, committee vice-chairman said: “It’s one of the issues which we really hear a lot in terms of residents’ concerns, and as we approach the winter months where we are more likely to see the bridge closed it would have been timely to have it here this evening.
“To wait until the New Year and to miss two of our committee meetings seems as if they don’t have a lot of regard for what Ipswich residents’ concerns are.”
Highways England has not yet set out a timeline on the publication of the study results, which concluded in July.
A spokesman from Highways England said: “”We are always looking for ways to improve the resilience of our road network and over the last 12 months we have been working with our partners in Suffolk and City University of London to see if we can safely allow vehicles over Orwell Bridge during higher wind speeds.
“Whilst we appreciate the high level of public interest in the issue, we need to first fully understand the technical information within the report provided to us by City University so that we can accurate present the findings to the committee.”