We're Keeping the Orwell Bridge Open During High-winds
SWARCO's automatic variable speed limit signs have been installed on the Orwell Bridge near Ipswich to enhance driver safety and allow the stretch of road to remain operational more often during windy weather.
The bridge, which is crossed by 60,000 vehicles per day and forms the stretch of the A14 that diverts traffic around Ipswich, has been forced to close 21 times since September 2013 due to high winds, at an estimated cost of £1 million per day for the Ipswich economy, according to local business organisation Ipswich Central.
The issue has been discussed on multiple occasions in the House of Commons, and Ipswich MP Tom Hunt stated in February that he is “glad to finally see some progress being made.” He has publicly backed the scheme currently being implemented by Highways England, along with Mway Comms and SWARCO Traffic.
The 20 Variable Message Signs (VMS), installed by SWARCO, automatically update the speed limit according to wind speeds, implementing a 60mph limit in winds up to 45mph and reducing this to 40mph in winds between 45mph and 60mph. If the winds exceed this figure, then the bridge will be forced to close due to the safety risks posed to motorists.
The project is backed by a year-long study by City University of London, which found that reducing the speed limit in winds up to 60mph would allow the bridge to remain open safely: “The research presented us with the solution and once there it was all about finding the right partner. SWARCO’s experience in traffic technology made them the obvious choice,” says Tony Watson, Project Manager for Mway Comms.
John Pickworth, Managing Director at SWARCO Traffic, sees the project as a demonstration of the company’s strength in the field: “Our work on Orwell Bridge utilised the technological expertise of our VMS, which are able to automatically respond to the conditions around them, but also our experience and knowledge of placing these signs in a difficult location which is also susceptible to incredibly high wind speeds.”
Martin Fellow, Regional Director for Highways England, iterated the importance of the route not just for the people of Ipswich, but also for the 4000 vehicles that go through the International Port of Felixstowe every day: “These new upgrades mean that the bridge will be able to remain open more often, increasing journey reliability for drivers, local residents, businesses and hauliers en route to the port. It is vital, however, that motorists respect the speed limits shown on the new electronic signs for their own safety and the safety of others.”
The signs were installed in January 2021.