Orwell Bridge, Ipswich

We carried out upgrades to the Orwell Bridge in Ipswich. In 2021, we installed new electronic signs showing changeable speed limits so that traffic can travel over the bridge at lower speeds safely even during high winds, meaning that we keep the bridge open more often during storms. During 2023 and 2024, we are carrying out bridge inspections as part of our usual six-year maintenance procedures.

Start date
End date
Cost £1.7m Million

Latest updates

  • 13 May 2024

    Bridge closures for routine safety inspections, 20 May to 23 May 2024

    We will need to close the A14 Orwell Bridge in Ipswich for routine safety inspections to ensure the structure remains safe and serviceable. Routine inspections are done every six years.  

    We’ll complete this work over four nights from Monday 20 May to Thursday 23 May, working between 8pm and 6am, weather conditions permitting.  

    Over these four days, routine maintenance of signs and signals, a weather station and CCTV will also be carried out at 26 different locations whilst the bridge is closed, reducing the need for future planned closures. Nearby streetlight work is also taking place.  

    The bridge inspection work will involve specialist equipment, including a hydraulic platform which lifts engineers over the side of the bridge so they can work underneath the structure. A hydraulics engineer will be on site throughout the work to monitor the platform’s performance. 

    We appreciate the impact any bridge closure has on the local community. We only close the bridge when absolutely necessary for safety. We carry out planned work overnight when traffic levels are at their lowest to cause the least possible disruption. 

    Closure dates 

    • Monday 20 May and Tuesday 21 May: A14 eastbound between junctions 55 and 58 closed overnight from 8pm until 6am. 


    • Wednesday 22 May and Thursday 23 May: A14 westbound between junctions 58 and 55 closed overnight from 8pm until 6am. 

    Diversion map

    Orwell bridge diversion map

  • 15 November 2023

    Road closures for bridge inspections, December 2023

    We are doing routine structural surveys on the bridge, which are carried out every six years.

    As part of the maintenance work, during the summer workers abseiled down to inspect the bridge piers, which are the vertical support structures. The vertical supports and the internal sections of the bridge have all been inspected.

    However, we now to do the last phase of inspections. The entire underside of the Orwell bridge decks are now being inspected using a large inspection vehicle which allows us to look under the bridge.  

    For safety reasons, we need to close the road during these inspections.

    Road closures

    • A14 J58 to J56 full westbound carriageway closure from 8pm to 6am on Monday 20 to Friday 24 November 2023 (5 nights)
    • A14 J55 to J58 full eastbound carriageway closure from 8pm to 6am on Monday 27 November to Friday 1 December 2023 (5 nights)
    • A14 westbound lane 2 closure over bridge from 8pm to 6am on Monday 27 November to Friday 1 December 2023 (5 nights). Except on Wednesday 29 November when the closures will be delayed until 10pm as Ipswich Town are playing at home that night. This will allow local traffic to disperse before the A14 traffic uses the diversion route.

    Diversion route

    During the westbound closure, traffic from A14 J58 will be sent up the A12 to the A1214 roundabout, then west along the whole A1214 over the top of Ipswich, down to A14 J55.

    The A14 eastbound closure will follow the same route in reverse.

  • 15 June 2023

    Overnight road closures on Thursday 15 to Friday 16 June 2023

    Essential barrier repairs are due to begin tonight on the A14 Orwell Bridge, ahead of the 40mph temporary speed restriction being lifted once these are complete.

    From 8pm on Thursday 15 June to 6am on Friday 16 June 2023, all eastbound traffic will be diverted off the A14 at J55 where a diversion will be in place.

    One lane of the westbound carriageway on the bridge will also be closed overnight to allow contractors to work safely on the central barrier.

    The repairs are expected to take two nights to complete - with the same restrictions also due to be in place between 8pm on Friday 16 June until 6am on Saturday 17 June. Once the work is complete, the 60mph speed limit will be reinstated.

    A temporary speed restriction of 40mph has been in place since the central barrier was badly damaged during a collision involving a HGV on the 9 May 2023.

    Due to the complexity of the repairs, specialist parts were needed which has meant the temporary speed restriction has remained in place for a number of weeks due to the damaged barrier.

    This has been for the safety of those using the bridge.  Thank you for your patience while this complex repair is completed.


    The diversion for those travelling eastbound will take traffic off the A14 at J55 and onto A1214 (Colchester Road) and the A12 ahead of re-joining the A14 at junction 58. 

  • 29 March 2021

    Road closures - installation of electronic signs

    We have now completed our work. We have installed new electronic signs on the bridge which display changeable driver speed limits. The changes mean more reliable journeys for people living, working and traveling in Ipswich. The maximum speed limit shown will be lower when it is windy. This will allow traffic to still use the bridge even during strong winds. The bridge will still be closed if wind speeds of 60mph or above predicted due to the safety risk to motorists.

Project information


The new electronic signs display a maximum driver speed limit of 60mph for winds speeds of up to 45mph, or a 40mph driver speed limit if wind speeds of between 45mph to 60mph are forecast. 

Speed cameras are in place on the bridge to enforce the maximum speed limits displayed on the electronic speed signs.

Orwell Bridge is now able to remain open to drivers more often during storms, and that means less congestion in town due to bridge closures.  

We only close the bridge for safety reasons when it is essential, and for as short a time as possible. The bridge will be closed if wind speeds of 60mph or above predicted due to the safety risk to motorists. 


A year-long study was made on the aerodynamic properties of the Orwell Bridge, to identify potential steps that we can take to keep the Orwell Bridge open to traffic during high winds. The report was carried out on our behalf by City University of London and they used the latest computer technology designed to test vehicle stability specifically on the Orwell Bridge. The bridge was split into 15 million ‘cells’ for the study and 36,000 tests were run. They assessed the accident risks for different types of vehicles and wind directions.

The aerodynamic study concluded that the current wind limit of 60mph for closing the bridge is correct for safety, but that reducing the traffic speed limit down from 60mph  during high winds means that the bridge can remain safely open when the wind is at certain speeds.

The findings were theoretical and needed to be validated using a wind tunnel. Wind tunnel testing was carried out during 2020. These tests mean that we now understand better how winds of different speeds and directions can affect the safety of traffic on the bridge. You can read about the study. 

A road safety audit was also carried out to confirm that the new signs do not pose any safety issues.

Safety is our number one priority. Like other high bridges around the country, the safety of road users on Orwell Bridge can be affected by high winds. The bridge is closed to all traffic if there are gusts of wind of 50mph or more in certain directions, or gusts of 60mph or higher, regardless of wind direction. This is in line with best practice, and is based on studies of lorries overturning in strong winds.

Decisions to close the bridge are based on Met Office forecasts. This allows us to inform road users in advance of any potential closures, and reduce the impact of traffic on the diversion route through Ipswich.

In recent years we had already made some changes so that closures can be both implemented and removed within a 20-minute period, and we had introduced a new protocol for making and communicating decisions about the bridge closures to give road users more time to make decisions about their journeys.

We’ve later commissioned new ground-breaking studies which show that we can let traffic use the bridge even during certain strong wind speeds if the speed limit is reduced.

We have now completed our work to install the new signs that allow the speed limits to be changed according to the wind speed. 


Traffic information

Information about scheduled roadworks and events on our motorways and major roads.

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