A12

Why Suffolk's future road improvements rely so heavily on a bridge in Lowestoft

Opinion

A14 improvements to prevent scenes like this are dependent on the Lake Lothing third crossing being a success. PIcture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A14 improvements to prevent scenes like this are dependent on the Lake Lothing third crossing being a success. PIcture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

SARAH LUCY BROWN

A cheque for billions of pounds, poised finely on a bridge spanning a lake in Lowestoft – as much at risk of staying put as falling into the water.

Artist impressions of the Lake Lothing Third Crossing Project in Lowestoft. Picture: KIER/MOUCHEArtist impressions of the Lake Lothing Third Crossing Project in Lowestoft. Picture: KIER/MOUCHE

That’s exactly where Suffolk stands right now for the future of its transport infrastructure, with that bridge representing nothing short of the entire weight of future aspiration for major roads in our county.

Some may say that is over-egging the pudding, but make no mistake that this is a deadly serious notion – and one which could be catastrophic for the vital developments you and I need to see for our roads if it doesn’t happen.

MORE: Will Lake Lothing crossing go ahead?

Plans for a third crossing in Lowestoft have been in the pipeline for several years now, and despite fears that the final sign-off is still left wanting three months after Boris Johnson secured an emphatic election victory, the bridge perhaps looks more secure than it has in recent months.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous has this week said he is confident the promised £73million from the Department for Transport is not going away – despite the Government seemingly ploughing cash into the north, and believes that the sign-off for the scheme is imminent.

Then-Prime Minister, David Cameron with conservative MP Peter Aldous looking over the bascule bridge. Picture: NICK BUTCHERThen-Prime Minister, David Cameron with conservative MP Peter Aldous looking over the bascule bridge. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

That is good news for the town and the county, who have been left waiting to such a degree that doubts have crept in about whether it will happen at all.

But perhaps what is little known is just how much this project needs to happen, and I am not talking about the economic and travel benefits to Lowestoft – it is the county’s infrastructure as a whole.

Behind closed doors, Suffolk County Council’s administration has been bruised by the highly public setbacks on key road projects.

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Only last month it opted not to pursue a northern bypass for reasons that are well versed.

But married to the escalating costs of the Upper Orwell Crossings in Ipswich and the Sudbury bypass – both of which had to be canned as a result – and the failure to secure government backing for the four villages bypass in east Suffolk, and you suddenly have a turbulent 18 months where four of five major road projects have died.

MORE: Sudbury bypass costs escalate

Yes, some were more concrete that others, but that doesn’t change the fact that all were very serious projects.

Let’s not forget that the Upper Orwell Crossings had already been granted cash by the DfT before the council found its numbers didn’t quite add up, and that still ended up a lost cause. The idea that Lake Lothing is a given is not cast in stone until Boris Johnson and Grant Shapps brush the dust off the third crossing plans and sign on the dotted line.

Eighteen months ago when everything still looked rosy for those four other projects, the importance of Lake Lothing on a wider county level was probably not as significant as it is now.

Official launch of Parliamentary petition calling for a long-awaited Sudbury bypass. Picture: GREGG BROWNOfficial launch of Parliamentary petition calling for a long-awaited Sudbury bypass. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Privately, there are fears that Suffolk is not seen as a safe pair of hands by senior DfT officers who hold the purse strings. Given that two of those projects escalated in costs so wildly – around £40m for the Upper Orwell Crossings and £20m for the Sudbury bypass – what other conclusion could they draw that Suffolk’s figures should be treated with a pinch of salt?

And at a time when Suffolk’s leaders and MPs have united to plea for major investment in the A14 – particularly around key junctions like Copdock – the Lake Lothing project simply cannot be allowed to fail.

MORE: Lake Lothing crossing plans delayed by General Election

It’s more than just a bridge to aid travel around Lowestoft, it is the win that the county needs to start the road to recovery in the eyes of government. It’s the sign of commitment from the county’s MPs and council leaders to the public that it does lobby hard for investment in a county that has, traditionally, been chronically underfunded in most areas.

If Lake Lothing doesn’t happen, Suffolk will be tainted with a black mark for any future DfT funding – be it A14 improvements, rail upgrades, Orwell Bridge measures or a duelled A12.

An aerial view of the Upper Orwell Crossings, which will now no longer go ahead. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILAn aerial view of the Upper Orwell Crossings, which will now no longer go ahead. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

And when the post-Brexit potential for the Port of Felixstowe to be more of an economic driver for this country than it is already is so heavily reliant on our transport network, that is simply not an option.

Traffic chaos remains on A14 after broken down truck cleared

Traffic is building on the A14 due to a broken down truck on the westbound carriageway at Needham Market. Picture: HIGHWAYS ENGLAND

Traffic is building on the A14 due to a broken down truck on the westbound carriageway at Needham Market. Picture: HIGHWAYS ENGLAND

Archant

A tow truck carrying a car which broke down on the A14 has now been cleared, but delays remain on the busy road.

Suffolk police were called at 3.34pm today to reports of a truck with a blown out tyre which became stuck on the inside lane on the westbound carriageway of the busy road shortly, before junction 51 at Needham Market.

The vehicle has now been moved onto a slip road however cars are queuing back with delays of more than 15 minutes reported.

A second broken down vehicle is also causing problems at junction 58 between the A14 and the A12.

The articulated lorry became stuck on the roundabout between the two busy roads and Felixstowe Road.

Traffic is now building in the area, especially on Felixstowe Road leaving Ipswich and officers are again warning of delays while they wait for recovery to arrive.

They warn that it may still take some time.

Traffic chaos on A14 after broken down truck blocks lane

Traffic is building on the A14 due to a broken down truck on the westbound carriageway at Needham Market. Picture: HIGHWAYS ENGLAND

Traffic is building on the A14 due to a broken down truck on the westbound carriageway at Needham Market. Picture: HIGHWAYS ENGLAND

Archant

A tow truck carrying a car has broken down on the A14, causing long delays during rush hour.

Suffolk police were called at 3.34pm today to reports of a truck with a blown out tyre which became stuck on the inside lane on the westbound carriageway of the busy road shortly, before junction 51 at Needham Market.

Traffic is now building and cars are queuing back for miles past junction 52 at Claydon.

Officers are advising drivers to avoid the area if at all possible while recovery is arranged.

A second broken down vehicle is also causing problems at junction 58 between the A14 and the A12.

The articulated lorry has become stuck on the round about between the two busy roads and Felixstowe Road.

Traffic is now building in the area and officers are again warning of delays while they wait for recovery, which has been called, to arrive.