Ipswich river crossings axed despite £8m being spent on the proposal

Suffolk County Council has confirmed that multi-million pound plans for three river crossings aimed at easing traffic congestion have been scrapped due to escalating costs with it unable to find additional funding.

It was originally hoped that a 600m main bridge would be constructed over the river, while a second bridge would act as a wet dock crossing to a new technology area for the town and the final bridge was meant to be a reconstruction of an existing footpath and cycleway.

But after costs were reassessed and independently verified by engineer consultants Jacobs last year, the bill for the river crossings spiralled above the £140m mark – meaning the council had to find an extra £43m to complete the work.

Last year it was revealed that £8m had already been spent on design development, extensive ground investigations and environmental and boat height surveys.

The council’s leader has now said the council has “exhausted all funding opportunities” and therefore will have to end its attempts to deliver the main bridge. However, Suffolk County Council has not ruled out progressing plans for the two smaller bridges.

Construction work on the crossings was scheduled to begin in 2020 with completion in 2023 - the government had granted £77m towards the project’s final cost. If the council did decide to move forward with the two cheaper options then the council would not be entitled to the government grant.

Commenting, council leader Matthew Hicks said: “It is very disappointing that we have been unable to secure any additional funding for the Upper Orwell Crossings and that the existing project will have to stop with immediate effect. We have exhausted all funding opportunities including the Department for Transport, HM Treasury, local businesses and other stakeholders.”

Approximately £10.8m that was part of the county’s contribution to the original scheme is now expected to be held back for the possible development of the smaller crossings should there be positive discussions with partners.

The proposed river crossings did attract criticism from opposition councils and from those living in the area. River Action Group had claimed roads in Ipswich would have become a "major thoroughfare".

The council cabinet is now expected to recommend that the main bridge is shelved at a meeting next Tuesday (29 January).

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