The M20 is set for two years of disruptions while a £92m ‘smart’ motorway is created
Road bosses say it will cut journey times in the long run
A £92m project to increase the capacity of the M20 is set to kick off in March.
The plan will involve converting the hard shoulder into a fourth lane for the 6.5 mile stretch between junctions 3 at West Malling and 5 at Aylesford.
It will also include the introduction of new “smart” gantries like those installed on the M25 between junctions 5 and 7 three years ago.
Roads bosses say it will improve journey times, safety and congestion. Work is scheduled to end in January 2020.
A Highways England spokesman said the scheme, for which funding was agreed in 2015, was of “local and national economic and political importance”.
He added: “The M20 is a crucial part of the UK strategic road network connecting Dover, Folkestone and the Channel Tunnel to the M25 and M26 motorways, and routes into London.
“This stretch of the M20 is heavily used by cars and freight to and from the Port of Dover and the popular Kent coastal areas, especially during holiday seasons when traffic increases and congestion on the motorway occurs.
“Our key issues that need to be improved on the scheme include: safety, congestion and journey times. A large number of cars and freight travel between London and the Port of Dover, this often leads to significant congestion.”
What work is being done?
Highways England has said it will:
- Convert the hard shoulders to create four lanes in each direction.
- Change junctions to accommodate this
- Install new – and refurbish existing – gantries with variable message signs and 10 refurbished message signs
- Create five new “emergency refuge areas”, new SOS telephones and the installation of CCTV to improve emergency response times
- Build a hardened central reservation with a new rigid concrete barrier
- Replaceme the Teapot Lane Footbridge deck at Aylesford to accommodate the hardshoulder conversion
- Replace existing noise barriers in built-up areas and install new barriers “where necessary”
What they’ve said about the road works…
Due to the scale of the project there will be closures, diversions, speed restrictions and temporarily narrowed lanes.
Details of these are yet to be finalised but Highways England has pledged to make all information “clearly available” in due course.
Closures are likely to take place at night rather than during the day.
Do ‘smart’ motorways actually work?
While Government policy has firmly backed the introduction of smart motorways – ploughing about £6 billion into projects across the country – they are not without their critics.
Some research by Highways England has even shown journey times on parts of the M25 have increased following their introuction.
Among their critics is AA president Edmund King who said: “The big issue that leads to lack of vastly improved journey times is many drivers are reluctant to use lane one as they think it is dangerous, for example there could be broken down cars or trucks ahead.
“In a way this defeats the objective of the whole scheme. The other major issue is that any breakdown not in an emergency refuge area leads to lane closures and further congestion.
“In many ways these ‘smart motorways’ are not very smart.”
Where will the construction centre be based?
A planning application to create a “temporary compound” is currently in the hands of Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council.
If approved, land at Castle Way, Leybourne, would be used for offices, a canteen, toilet block, training rooms, CCTV control rooms, car parking and the storage of materials and plant.