Third crossing report findings imminent

RESULTS of a key report into where a third crossing for Lowestoft could go are 'imminent,' it emerged yesterday.Waveney MP Bob Blizzard broke the news to The Journal after yet another spate of frustrating snarl-ups for motorists in and around the town.

RESULTS of a key report into where a third crossing for Lowestoft could go are 'imminent,' it emerged yesterday.

Waveney MP Bob Blizzard broke the news to The Journal after yet another spate of frustrating snarl-ups for motorists in and around the town.

An end to the latest misery seemed to be in sight this weekend after a set of closures that only reiterated the urgent need for a third crossing in the town.

Mr Blizzard arranged for the report to be commissioned last year. And in August, a study to determine where the crossing should be was launched, so that a scheme could be fed into the regional funding allocation process.

This followed an acceptance from the Highways Agency that expert road consultants should investigate possible sitings. With Suffolk County Council backing the report, the results of this study will be unveiled very soon.

And news of the preferred location will come at a critical time. For drivers' tempers are frayed following days of traffic jams and more roadworks.

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From Saturday night to Tuesday there was a familiar, depressing sight in Lowestoft. Queues of cars stretched for miles as the roadworks on the edge of town caused gridlock.

The A1117 Bridge Road in Oulton Broad was closed to allow for resurfacing of the road, which was carried out by Suffolk County Council, and maintenance work by Network Rail on the Oulton Broad North level crossing

The closure meant that the Mutford Lock bridge - one of only two crossings over Lake Lothing - was subsequently out of action, forcing all the town's traffic over the bascule bridge.

And with the clamour for a third crossing intensifying among locals, speaking exclusively to The Journal yesterday, Mr Blizzard said: 'I think this week's event have proved once again that Lowestoft can't function with just two bridges. Every time there's a problem with one of the bridges the whole town comes to a standstill.

'The bridge question dominates daily life. People are left to wonder whether they will encounter problems in their journeys if they go over one of the bridges,' the MP added.

'It is a daily ordeal - not just for all the motorists, but for businesses as well - and it only highlights how desperately Lowestoft needs a third crossing.'

With plans for a third crossing having first been mooted at the end of the First World War in 1918, petitions signed by thousands of locals in the midst of a campaign by Mr Blizzard, which was backed by The Journal, at last seem to moving in the right direction.

And the need for a third crossing was also highlighted when the 1st East Urban Regeneration Company made a presentation to Waveney District Council's overview and scrutiny committee last Thursday.

1st East chief executive Philip Watkins said evidence of a need for a third crossing was widespread and that a final report from the Highways Agency about the best location was nearing completion. He added: 'We share the desire and need for a third crossing.'

Councillor Andrew Shepherd, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group at Waveney, said talk about the need for a third crossing stretched back many decades and that previous reports had proved a need. 'With overwhelming support from Lowestoft people, why have they spent more money to prove something we already know?' he added.

Mr Watkins, who estimated the new bridge would cost something in the region of �70m, insisted an updated study was needed to make the case for regional funding. He added: 'If we had said here are the reports from the past, they wouldn't have got very far.'

With the study close to completion, Mr Blizzard said: 'We've been trying to get this onto the Regional Funding Allocation process since the 1990s. And now with the report imminent it should also show the Benefit Cost Ratio.

'I'm also pressing, through the roads minister, for future funding to develop the scheme further. Once the report comes in we need to have a scheme in place when the next funding round comes along.

'It's an achievement to now be on the regional list but to get to the top now we need the scheme to develop,' Mr Blizzard added.

And sending out an impassioned rallying call to both Suffolk County and Waveney District Council's to support funding for the scheme, the MP said: 'We are totally committed to this, but it does require everyone to pull together as the people of Lowestoft want this crossing.'

With overnight work ending tomorrow (Saturday) as resurfacing of the Normanston Drive roundabout was due to be completed, a Suffolk County Council spokesman added: 'Our resurfacing work has been carried out from 7pm to 7am each night. This was so that we could maintain some access to businesses during the day and was arranged after consultation with the businesses.'

A Network Rail spokesman said that they'd arranged for their work to coincide with the resurfacing to minimise disruption. He said: 'Our engineers have been fitting a new deck to the crossing, which is a hi-tech non-slip surface. The crossing itself has been renewed, which means we have replaced things like nuts, bolts and hinges.'