Third crossing campaign hopes raised

IT has been the major talking point in Lowestoft for more than 90 years, but a campaign to solve one of the town's oldest transport problems took a significant step forward this week.

IT has been the major talking point in Lowestoft for more than 90 years, but a campaign to solve one of the town's oldest transport problems took a significant step forward this week.

The much-vaunted third crossing of Lake Lothing received a welcome green light as 'a line on the map' now exists.

This comes after a Highways Agency feasibility report was backed by the transport minister for a new 305m bascule bridge over Lake Lothing, stretching from Peto Way in the north of the town to Waveney Drive in the south.

But The Journal can today exclusively reveal that before the �37.8m third crossing is built - with a timeframe for completion of the project given between 2017 and 2019 - an �18.2m Southern Access Road is needed first to 'enable the third crossing' to be built.

The full contents of the proposed Lake Lothing third crossing scheme were revealed this week by Waveney MP Bob Blizzard, who had arranged for the report to be commissioned last year.

The plans, drawn up by consultants Faber Maunsell, show that the bridge would be situated between the two existing crossings, connecting from a new roundabout behind Waveney Drive to another on Peto Way, near Bannatyne's health club.

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With the report concluding that the crossing is feasible, it states: 'The third crossing and proposed infrastructure would provide relief to traffic congestion in Lowestoft town centre, with traffic use on Belvedere Road, the existing bascule bridge, Lowestoft Gyratory and Jubilee Way all reduced.

'Peto Way, which is underused currently, would provide an essential link to the new bascule bridge. The Southern Access Road would serve the new lakeside development, providing relief to Victoria Road, which is inadequate for future traffic volume.'

With plans for a third crossing having first been mooted at the end of the first world war in 1918, and a new bridge having been earmarked as part of the 1st East Urban Regeneration Company's blueprint to breathe new life into waterfront area, this latest development will provide much-needed relief in the future for motorists.

In 2007, a petition organised by Mr Blizzard and supported by the Journal, attracted over 10,000 signatures - and the need for the crossing has gathered pace since then.

'This is an important step forward,' a delighted Mr Blizzard told The Journal. 'We now know the actual location of the third crossing and have a line on a map. This means we have a real scheme which can be taken forward.

'The cost benefit ratios show that it is feasible and so the government would fund the crossing if the scheme were formally submitted to them.'

The report concludes that a new 305m bascule bridge would 'give clearance to all shipping' and is 'envisaged to be of a twin leaf steel construction.' It also said that inflation could lead the construction cost soaring to between �49m and �81m - with a 'central estimate of about �65m' by the time the project eventually gets the go ahead.

Hopes for the new bridge received a boost in November last year when it made its way on to a list of schemes that could get cash from the East of England Regional Assembly after 2013.

'This is the biggest talking point in the town as we've never had a line on the map since 1993,' Mr Blizzard said. 'Now we have a line on the map it's important for a number of reasons as we now have a real scheme that can be taken forward and we are on the regional priority list. 'This is very important to the redevelopment of Lake Lothing and the work of 1st East,' he added.

Now the aim is to get the East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) mostly made up of councillor representatives to place the third crossing project on a priority list, which is then submitted to the Department for Transport for funding from the regional allocation.

'Clearly our task now is for everybody to get behind this scheme,' Mr Blizzard said. 'All the key organisations need to get behind this now to push it up the list. 'I'm going to push for further funding to work up the scheme, as the more detail we have, the better, and the more likely it is to get the go ahead.

'This is key to Lowestoft and for our future. It is fundamental to our ability to have a transport system that meets the needs of the town in the 21st century.'