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Bridge problem under spotlight

PUBLISHED: 14:23 05 September 2008 | UPDATED: 21:13 05 July 2010

THE full extent of the opening of Lowestoft's bascule bridge was brought into sharp focus last night, with port officials admitting they have the power to open it whenever they like … and without any restrictions.

THE full extent of the opening of Lowestoft's bascule bridge was brought into sharp focus last night, with port officials admitting they have the power to open it whenever they like … and without any restrictions.

The bridge will be lifted on average seven to eight times every day, and sometimes even 10, to let commercial vessels, yachts and pleasure boats to pass through.

And according to Roger Arundale, deputy port manager for Associated British Ports in East Anglia, the positive points of making Lowestoft port readily available, and bringing its customers in the town, far outweighs the negative ones.

His comments come after businessman Jim Fallon criticised the lack of limits placed on ABP on raising the bridge, strengthening the argument for a third crossing.

Air show directors have also raised concerns after the bridge was raised the first morning of this year's festival, causing chaos and delaying park and ride buses.

Managing director Paul Bayfield said: “One of the main reasons we do what we do is to encourage tourism, but it was just so sad that morning. It opened at 10.40am for around eight minutes and caused problems so we hope to speak to ABP about it in good time for next year.”

Mr Arundale said that Lowestoft port has a legal responsibility to allow vessels access to it.

“This means that we have the power to open and close the bridge to allow vessels to transit, without any restrictions on the frequency or timing of the openings. We do, of course, recognise the impact that opening the bridge has on traffic, so have put in place some basic rules to help reduce any negative impact of the port on the town.”

Mr Arundale said they discourage commercial shipping movements between 8.15am and 9am, 12.30pm and 1pm and 5pm and 5.30pm, although this doesn't mean that a ship will never require the bridge to be opened during these times because tides and draft restrictions make it essential.

He added that in the case of small boats there were 10 allocated times when the bridge would be raised to allow them through and an extra one at the weekends and on public holidays.

Mr Arundale, who is based at Lowestoft at least once a week, defended the decision for opening the bridge for single yachts saying that they need to be diverse.

“While Mr Fallon may be upset at waiting for a yacht, they do represent an important aspect of the port's business. Together the yachts and their owners bring positive benefits to the area and its economy.”

He added that the port provides “significant” employment in the town and is the most significant opportunity for further economic growth.

“I get as impatient as the next person when I have to wait at lights. However, I do believe the positives of having the port and its customers, large or small, in the town, significantly outweigh the negatives.”

Mr Arundale said he also had concerns regarding the air show with the number of people crossing the bridge on foot and the amount of road traffic creating significant difficulties in opening the bridge.

“We have already determined to consider how things can be improved for next year and intend to discuss the issue with the organisers of the air show.”

What do you think about the operation of the bridge and is it an inconvenience or should we just accept that we live in a busy town with a port? Write to The Journal, 147 London Road North, Lowestoft, NR32 1NB, or email russell.cook@archant.co.uk

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