Highways Agency

Chaos on the M20 - Kent is a laughing stock

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Tuesday, June 14 2011

Kent was made to look an embarrassing laughing stock by the M20 chaos last weekend.

Queues tailing back from Junction 8 halfway to Ashford plunged innocent travellers, many from the Continent, into a four-hour crawl through Maidstone.

What should have been a simple 20-minute run well away from the county town became a nightmare. Drivers and passengers had to get out of their cars to find relief from the stress of going nowhere.

This was travel misery on a grand scale and surely it could have been better managed. The Highways Agency was in charge and failed to properly foresee the chaos that would ensue.

Why was no contraflow system? Why was there no diversion along the A20.

It was hard to see any signs indicating trouble ahead in the Ashford area, and while that made the A20 thankfully relatively empty - good for local drivers and residents - it did nothing to ease the pain of the cars, trucks, coaches and vans stuck in gridlock.

Cricket matches were cancelled because teams could not get through until several hours after the scheduled start time.

Numerous appointments were missed. No doubt many people felt ill. And our overseas visitors must have thought they had arrived in a country that would shame the Third World.

We know essential work has to be carried out. But surely it can be planned better. Apparently, the Highways Agency had wanted to do the work over one weekend and two working days but Kent County Council thankfully persuaded officials to change their mind.

Blocking the slip road at J8 during weekdays is already causing enough chaos for residents in Bearsted, with tailbacks a regular feature of the village and Ashford Road. But the complete closure was something else. Road work planning must be done better.

The M20 is a strategic gateway from mainland Europe to Kent and the rest of the UK. The Highways Agency must sharpen up its act. By way of compensation, how about the Government agreeing to Kent collecting a tax on every heavy vehicle driving through the county?

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Categories: Business | Highways Agency | Transport

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