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× Cowdray Bridge works completing & planned September night closures on Ipswich Road South
24/08/2021
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Following good progress on site we are pleased to advise that the works to Cowdray Bridge in Colchester are now drawing to a close. Subsequent to completing this final phase of work and the full opening of Ipswich Road Roundabout, we will be concluding with the installation of the new zebra crossing on Ipswich Road South. 

To support these works night closures will be required on Ipswich Road South to avoid daytime disruption. We are aiming to close the road for the nights of Wednesday 1st September to Friday 3 September and we will be working between 8pm and 6am.

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A133 Ipswich Road/Harwich Road improvement scheme, Colchester

Works location and photos

Ipswich Road Roundabout
Harwich Road Roundabout

About the scheme

We are pleased to announce that Eurovia have been awarded the contract and begun construction of this improvement scheme in September 2018 and are planned to remain on site until Summer 2020. The work start date has changed however the expected duration is planned to remain the same. The whole project is expected to be finished, with improved traffic flow through the whole area towards the latter part of 2020. The Harwich Road roundabout up to Ipswich Road roundabout is still planned to be completed this summer.

The scheme will see the replacement of the double roundabouts located at Ipswich Road and Harwich Road with a single roundabout at each location. The carriageway between Ipswich Road and Harwich Road junctions will also be widened to accommodate two formal lanes in each direction. The scheme will include upgrading existing pedestrian crossings to signal controlled crossings and general improvements to the current off-carriageway cycle and footway provisions.

The scheme will improve the performance of these two key intersections on the A133 and renewal of the infrastructure will reduce maintenance costs. It will also improve the existing highway assets including the strengthening of two retaining walls, one between Ipswich Road roundabout and the adjoining railway line and another between Ipswich Road roundabout and the Waitrose Car Park. The Scheme has also supported the Cowdray Bridge refurbishment, now being progressed separately through the structures capital maintenance programme.

It is recognised that this is a traffic sensitive site and local residents and businesses will have a keen interest in the work phases and traffic management.   With this in mind, we held a ‘Meet the Contractor’ drop-in session with the Eurovia team to discuss the arrangements in place on Wednesday 5th September 2018.  We were pleased with the turnout and received positive feedback, especially around the road layout, crossing upgrades, the new zebra crossing and the new slip lanes. We hope that we were able to reassure residents and provide contacts for any future correspondence.

Various temporary Road closures will be required during the project, the sections of road affected will be Ipswich road (to the south and the north of the roundabout) and Harwich Road (to the south of the roundabout). Directly affected residents/businesses will be notified in advance through letter drops and signage on site. Also we will be making a continued effort to support all communications by putting updates out via our website and Social media. A single road only to be shut at any one time. 

How will it affect you?

Whilst efforts will be made to keep traffic congestion to a minimum throughout these improvements, it is recognised that works will be undertaken in traffic sensitive areas and there is likely to be disruption to normal traffic flows.  Motorists are advised to allow extra time travelling through the area.

To view information regarding other works in the area please also visit one.network.

Pedestrian diversions will be in place where necessary and advertised locally.

Questions and Answers

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Roadworks issues

Legislation dictates that when we have reduced lanes on a roundabout we must also reduce the approaches to the same number of lanes or fewer, this is for safety reasons for all network users (not only drivers) and without it collisions would be more likely due to rapid merging of lanes, bottlenecking or gridlocking

For the safety of the public and contractors' staff, as defined legally, we must maintain proper lane closures on the approaches to the junctions. However, we continuously monitor the site to find opportunities to adjust the traffic management barriers even if only for a short while.

The best source for detail of changing traffic management (signs, cones, barriers, alternative pedestrian crossings, road diversions), include the information boards on site and this project webpage. Please also check www.essex.gov.uk/traffic for the official permitted works and diversions and live traffic delays. Please also follow @Essex_Travel on twitter for live traffic information, including reported incidents, delays and when roads are clear again.

Eurovia staff are on site throughout the works and whenever a change in traffic management is required as work moves to a new area or begins a new phase, they will ensure traffic management is changed to keep everyone safe and traffic flowing as freely as possible. Whenever there is a chance, even for a short time, to lift or reduce some traffic management to improve traffic flow, they will do it. The traffic management in place will also change from time to time to allow for short duration works in localised areas such as footways/cycleways. As the scheme progresses you will start to see more large-scale traffic management set ups. This is for construction zones and will be in place for everyone’s safety. We appreciate your patience whilst these necessary works take place and ask that you please bear with us.

Whilst we appreciate it can be frustrating finding your way through the site, Eurovia are always on hand to give advice or help with directing any members of the public around the site. If you are unable to locate anyone, there will usually be advanced warning signs for specific footpath closures and there will be signs for you to follow a suitable and safe diversion. Please also see the footpath closure information boards that are on site at all the closure locations. This will enable you to check the routes that are open around the site.

There are various activities which have had to be carried out before we are able to start building the roundabouts and widening the carriageways, improving provision for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. These preliminary works include strengthening the retaining wall between the road and the railway cutting. This in itself is a significant operation and will require the construction of a continuous new, piled retaining wall behind the existing wall below the surface of the Ipswich Road roundabout. Certain activities such as utility diversions can take up to 8 weeks (for each group of service pipes or cables). With such a large-scale scheme this greatly extends the project timescale, in a way not immediately evident to all road users.

The majority of the preparation works being carried out are by contractors on behalf of the various utility companies, particularly BT and Anglian Water. What this means is that they provide the resource they feel is required to complete the tasks we have requested. We are still continuously liaising with the utilities and have already been able to bring some additional resources in at an early stage.

In terms of traffic capacity of the junctions, traffic modelling has been undertaken and demonstrates that the works will improve the overall capacity at both junctions. Regarding efficiency and operational benefits, the existing double mini-roundabouts necessitate two give-way points for the majority of movements and have more conflict points (when compared to the proposed), which leads to driver hesitation and consequently delay. With single, larger roundabouts, widened approaches and dual carriageway improvement between the two junctions there will be more capacity and a less complicated arrangement, where all movements need to give way just once and drivers are able to access and egress the junction more efficiently. In relation to safety benefits, the proposed roundabouts provide overall geometric safety improvements (with deflection, etc.) and as it is a single roundabout, there will be less manoeuvres and conflict points between traffic when compared with the existing mini-roundabout arrangement.

Works are being undertaken at night and weekends where this provides meaningful benefit to the progress of the scheme and full road closures can be utilised. We are currently heavily restricted to limited working areas due to the considerable amount of utility diversions required to be completed first. In addition, due to the proximity of residential properties there are environmental considerations associated with noise during the night which we need to abide by. As the scheme progresses and more working areas are available, the ability to increase resources and working hours will continually be evaluated with the intention to minimise the overall duration of the works where practicable.

The works are much more complex than just widening and changing the roundabouts. The tasks involved to complete the project include: removal of existing structures; diverting utilities pipes and cables over several months; undertaking piling works for the Waitrose and Network Rail walls to allow space for improvements; (This in itself is a significant operation and will require the construction of a continuous new piled retaining wall behind the existing wall below the surface of the Ipswich Road roundabout), replacement of street lighting; building the new wider carriageway and pavements; renew and improve cycle paths; improve pedestrian controlled crossings; renew highway lining and signs; build new roundabouts. This is without any unforeseen engineering complications that may arise, such as the long-standing water leak that had to be fixed on Harwich Rd (south).

A structural problem has now been found on the bridge over the mainline railway on Cowdray Avenue. Rather than have to close the road in future and perhaps have to re-excavate in this area, it has been decided to repair the bridge using the existing traffic restrictions at the Ipswich Road roundabout. This will further delay final completion of all works until the latter part of 2020, but will save a lot of money and potential traffic delays by carrying out the bridge repairs now.

We regularly update progress on this scheme via this website, we will also be providing weekly updates via Twitter and undertaking other communications activities (e.g. letter drops, public notices on site) dependent on what activities are being undertaken or coming up in the near future.

We always anticipated there was going to be disruption and delays, particularly at peak times during the works. As a result, we are ensuring that suitable diversions are in place for road closures and that we are providing regular advance updates on the Essex Highways website and Twitter feed. It may be important to reflect that this was already a heavily congested area prior to works starting and as such works of any size were bound to have an impact on the surrounding areas. Please allow additional time when making journeys through the area or choose alternative routes. We ask that drivers remain patient whilst we undertake these crucial works to help keep Colchester moving reliably for years to come.

The main construction contract cost is £5.5m plus an additional £1m for utility diversion costs.

The closure of Ipswich Road (south) is needed for final connections under the road to diverted high-pressure water mains by Anglian Water. This involves the flushing of the existing and the newly laid system. This then needs 10-14 days for testing to ensure everything is correct with the system itself before then reinstating this section. The road has to remain closed while this work under the road takes place.

This will then enable us to begin the heavy-machinery operation of the Piling works to build a new retaining wall to support a wider road above the railway line. This requires work to insert steel piles into the ground and then build the new concrete wall around them. Time has to be allowed for the concrete to cure or set. As the piling and building operation proceeds along the site, we will follow behind with road/kerb/pavement/street lighting construction. If we can find opportunities to minimise disruption to traffic during this time, we will.

Firstly, the large-scale operation of excavating the whole area to allow for a piling mat to be constructed will need to take place. This will involve the removal of existing roads, kerbs, lighting, existing walls and barriers and other irregularities in the ground. A “piling mat” of thick, solid material will then be constructed in this area to support the weight of the very large piling rig. Piles are long, strong steel columns which are hammered into the ground to give the main strength to the retaining wall. Piling is a very heavy, noisy and prolonged operation. When each section of piles is in, the concrete wall enclosing the piles can be built, with time allowed to allow the concrete to cure or set. The sheer scale of these works is why we need to have the road closed for this amount of time, a safety zone is required around the piling rig.

Bridge issues

The damage was found when we removed the footway behind it. Prior to that the damage was hidden below ground. The crack in the pilaster foundation indicates that there is an issue with the bridge foundation underneath. This will require the removal of the pilaster and the pilaster foundation and an inspection of the bridge foundation itself in order to know for sure what has happened and the severity of the damage.

The bridge is owned by Essex County Council not Network Rail and is therefore our responsibility. However, as a bridge over the railway, any inspections or works must be approved by Network Rail who provide ‘possession’ dates – dates on which we are permitted to work near to the railway.

It was inspected in December and previous inspections of the Bridge were completed in September & December 2019. We have an inspection booked for September 2020 under our Network Rail “possession” dates – that is the dates when Network Rail gives us permission to work near the railway.

Further information

Updates will be available via this webpage including changes to the work programme, updated frequently asked questions, details regarding traffic arrangements such as temporary closures as well as local signage and information will also be available on our twitter feed @essexhighways.

Further details on our works to repair Cowdray Bridge can be found on our Cowdray Bridge, A133 Cowdray Avenue, Colchester webpage.

If you have any queries, please contact the Essex County Council customer services team by telephone: 0345 603 7631 or by completing the online form www.essex.gov.uk/enquiries