Highways England explains safety is behind closures as local motorists fume
Bemused drivers have labelled the decision to shut two M20 slip roads in Ashford as “total lunacy”.
Highways England permanently closed the former coastbound on-slip and London-bound off-slip at Junction 10 just over a week ago.
The move came following the much-anticipated opening of the new £104m Junction 10a – which has been built just 700 metres south east of the original junction.
Motorists, who have been learning the ropes of the new road layout, now have to use Junction 10a if they want to get onto the coastbound M20.
Likewise, those exiting the London-bound motorway are taken on the longer route to Junction 10a.
A Highways England spokesman explained why the old slip roads had to shut for good.
“We cannot complete the end section of the slip roads on Junction 10a without closing the coast-facing slips on Junction 10 as they overlap at different design levels,” he said.
“It’s also safer to close these for the travelling public and workforce now.
“Creating a new M20 junction for Ashford will tackle congestion and bring huge benefits for the town.”
Road chiefs say the now-redundant Junction 10 slip roads, which are currently blocked off by a wall of cones, will be landscaped.
But, driving instructor Simon Thomas, who runs Fast Track Driver Training in Ashford, says closing the slips is a “big mistake”.
“It will increase ambulance reaction times and it makes no sense sending all traffic via the new road only to come back to Junction 10,” he said.
“I have been aware of this plan since they started and was waiting for the mayhem.
“There was an instant effect last Thursday morning with traffic.
“And that’s before they turn the traffic lights on coming out of the Ashford Retail Park estate.
“It’s total lunacy.”
Highways England had initially planned to shut the slip roads in early August – but postponed the closure following a backlash from angry drivers.
The closure was then moved to October 16 – two weeks before the new coast-facing slips at Junction 10a were due to open on October 31.
But an appeal from the South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb) saw the decision repealed less than 24 hours after it was made.
Almost a month on, Highways England shut the slip roads for good last Wednesday night and now says they will be landscaped.
By the end of November, the new Junction 10a London-facing slips will be open.
Highways chiefs say that by early 2020, lane one of the M20 should be reopened to traffic following maintenance resurfacing works.
On the A20, motorists travelling from Folkestone to Ashford are currently facing a lengthy diversion as the road has been closed in the westbound direction between Highfield Lane and the Pilgrims Hospice.
Highways England says the westbound A20 closure will be in place until the end of November as they work to connect the road to the new junction.
Elsewhere, traffic lights at the Ashford Retail Park junction – which links the A2070 with Barrey Road – are set to be switched on by the end of the year.
Likewise, the lights on the new Junction 10a roundabout should be working before the end of 2019.