Published: 10:40, 01 May 2014
The A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury will become a dual carriageway, it has been confirmed today.
Roads minister Robert Goodwill announced the decision this morning following a public inquiry into the long-awaited plans a year ago.
Work could start as early as autumn this year with the main construction starting in spring 2015, although a contractor has not yet been appointed.
A two-and-a-half mile section of the road will be upgraded from single to dual carriageway - adding a lane in each direction, upgrading junctions and improving the road layout.
The major road scheme is designed to make journeys on the A21 safer and more reliable and deliver a five-fold return on investment.
Mr Goodwill said: "This is great news not only for residents and businesses who use the A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury, but also for the local economy.
"The next steps demonstrate the government's clear £15.1 billion commitment to our road network in boosting capacity on our motorways and major trunk roads by 2021."
Graham Link, project manager from the Highways Agency, said: "The A21 is a vital route linking the Tonbridge/Tunbridge Wells and Hastings/Bexhill areas to the M25 and London.
"The new section will provide much needed capacity to reduce congestion and will also improve safety with new junctions provided and a better road layout."
Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark said: "This is the news that everyone has been waiting for - victory in our campaign to get the dualling of the A21 approved.
"May Day 2014 is a day for celebration for the whole community. Since the building of the new Pembury Hospital, dualling the A21 has been my number one campaign, and I cannot begin to express my relief and delight at this news.
"From the outset it has been a total community effort - uniting residents, businesses, visitors and local councils."
He added: "It's a huge bonus that work may begin later this year, and full construction next year. 2016 was previously considered the earliest starting date.
"But as with the Pembury Hospital, I will take nothing for granted until I see the bulldozers begin their work.
"We can now look forward with confidence to an end to constant traffic jams, appalling accidents and the pollution caused by idling engines.
"For my constituents, one of the big advantages will be a reduction in congestion on the A26 through Southborough and Tunbridge Wells as north-south traffic can reliably avoid the centre of town."
Meanwhile, Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council leader Nicolas Heslop also welcomed the announcement.
He said: "It is a victory for those of us who have argued for this essential widening to be realised.
"It is excellent news for many residents and businesses in the Tonbridge area. The announcement paves the way for a very significant improvement in traffic movement, safety and air quality at a spot that has long been a serious bottleneck in the strategic and local transport network."
Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council, said: “We are delighted to hear Road Minster Robert Goodwill’s announcement that dualling of the A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury will go ahead.
“This is great news – more than just the construction of a new section of road. We led the charge on getting the cost down and worked with local MPs and borough councils to lobby Government on the benefits of expanding capacity on this section of the road.
"We believe that the A21 upgrade will act as a catalyst for economic growth, bringing new jobs and supporting businesses along this important transport corridor, as well as providing relief to hard pressed local residents and firms.”
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