Orwell Crossing Lorry Park is situated on the A14 eastbound, Nacton, Ipswich, just six miles from Felixstowe Port. It opened for business in February 2004 and soon established a reputation for excellent service and entertainment. As well as secure parking with CCTV coverage, there were self-contained showers, with separate showers for women, a 24-hour restaurant, and entertainment including music and football shown on a big-screen TV.
The first annual truck show took place in 2005 and the tenth anniversary show saw the biggest ever turnout. Five hundred visitors enjoyed the spectacle of 123 trucks, and the family-friendly theme was continued with face-painting, bouncy castles and games for children.
In 2005, then owner Karl Rout’s application to Suffolk Coastal council to allow car drivers to use the facilities was turned down. He appealed, and two years later, following a public enquiry, a government planning inspector overturned the council’s decision. Mr Rout said at the time: “Although this is an important stopping place for lorry drivers, we could not survive with them alone and we needed other motorists to make it viable. … The A14 is our local road and not just a strategic route – 60% of people using it are from this area and using it as an Ipswich bypass. Those people are passing and some want to use our facilities.”
The decision to allow cars to use the facilities allowed the restaurant and entertainment element of the business to be further developed. Orwell Crossing was featured on BBC Radio 4 Food Programme in April 2013. BBC reporter Andrew Webb spent a day at the truck stop, and drivers shared their experiences of what it is like to work, live and eat on the road.
In June of the same year the future of the truck stop seemed to be in jeopardy, as demand for services had plummeted and it was reportedly making a loss. Later in the year, in October, there were also problems with travellers. Despite the challenges, the truck stop continued to trade; but tragically, co-owner Karl Rout died suddenly in February 2014 while on holiday in Florida.
It seems the story of Orwell Crossing truck stop has entered a new chapter. The business changed hands in the summer of 2016, at which time the bar and restaurant closed – although parking and showers are still available. Since late September, First Choice Catering have been providing food on the site between the hours of 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. With a new website due to launch in late 2016/ early 2017, more information may soon be revealed as to how the business will develop in the future.