Closure of A14 could bring misery nights

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RESIDENTS face nights of misery with heavy lorries and cars thundering within feet of their front doors, it was claimed this week.

Now local councillors, politicians and officials are joining forces to press the Highways Agency to rethink its plan to close part of the A14 every night for three weeks.

The agency says drivers will follow its suggested diversion, up the A140 to Diss and then back on the A143 past Ixworth to Bury St Edmunds when work to repair the road surface begins at the beginning of October.

They have stressed that the work is urgently needed before winter to ‘ensure safety standards are maintained’.

But opponents say people with local knowledge and heavy lorry and car drivers using sat navs will ignore the 24-mile diversion and instead use narrow roads through Haughley New Street, Wetherden and Elmswell.

Elmswell Green Party district councillor Sarah Mansell said that while work was scheduled to take place at night, the Highways Agency had ignored the large volume of traffic using the 24-hours-a-day Felixstowe port and motorists would avoid the formal diversion.

She said: “Wetherden has houses next to the road. They will suffer the most.”

Her concerns were echoed by Elmswell parish council clerk Peter Dow who attended a meeting earlier this month between councils, councillors and the Highways Agency, which in the end did not attend as it believed at the time there were few complaints.

Mr Dow said he had shown parish councillors the diversions. “There was spontaneous laughter. They said nobody would use them,” he said.

It is understand surfacing work is to be carried out on the concreted westbound section of the A14, from Tot Hill junction for a distance of about five miles to the A1088.

It has been suggested a contra-flow system could be used as an alternative to complete closure.

A spokesman for the Highways Agency said: “Safety is a top priority for the Highways Agency and the westbound carriageway of the A14 between Stowmarket and Bury St Edmunds needs urgent surface repairs before the winter to ensure our safety standards are maintained.

“We looked at a number of traffic management options, including a contraflow system, but concluded the most efficient and quickest way to carry out this essential work is by closing the carriageway overnight when traffic flows are at their lowest and diverting road users on to other local roads.

“Using a contraflow would cost significantly more and would require a speed limit in place all day on the affected stretch of road. It would also still entail diversions for several nights, while the contraflow is put in place and later removed.

“We appreciate the concerns of local people and their elected representatives but believe using a diversion route, which will only be in place between 7pm and 6am, is the right traffic management solution.

“Though inevitably longer, this is designed to direct drivers who do not know the area on to the most suitable roads. This diversion will be well-signposted and re-inforced by an alternative route for heavy vehicles coming from Felixstowe and Ipswich, using the A120 trunk road and the M11.

“Officials from the Highways Agency were not able to attend the meeting called by Suffolk County Council on 12 August due to short notice and other commitments but we remain willing to meet representatives of local authorities to discuss this programme of work.”