Published: 13:26, 13 January 2022
| Updated: 16:56, 13 January 2022
Drivers are set to face up to a year of disruption on the M20 as the moveable barrier currently stored on the hard shoulder is shifted to the central reservation.
National Highways says it plans to start work on the 15-mile stretch between Junction 9 for Ashford and Junction 8 for Leeds Castle later this month, bringing in lengthy lane closures and nighttime restrictions.
The concrete barrier forms part of the Operation Brock system and, at times of cross-Channel disruption, allows lorries heading to Dover to use one side of the M20 while all other traffic is restricted to a contraflow system on the opposite side.
It is not currently known why bosses want to move it but Ashford Borough Council's deputy leader Cllr Paul Bartlett (Con) believes it is due to safety concerns.
"The London-bound hard shoulder is very narrow at the moment so I suppose they think it will be safer to put it in the central reservation," he said.
"What is quite interesting is the sheer length of time they say it will take – it seems extraordinary for it to take 12 months.
"They've sent a very long letter out about it but it doesn't give a great deal of information about why they are doing it.
"I am convinced it is for safety reasons; why else would they move it? It's a big piece of civil engineering to take on."
In the letter, Afsheen Mortazaie-Far, project manager at National Highways, confirms the work will last for about a year.
"We will be moving the barrier and storing it in the central reserve," he said.
"The work we’re carrying out is to adapt the central reserve to enable this to happen.
"We will be undertaking the work in phases, and to carry it out safely, lane closures and a small number of overnight closures will be needed."
The first overnight closure between Junctions 8 and 9 will run from 8pm on Friday, January 28 to 6am on Saturday, January 29.
Bosses say they will be installing 'traffic management' during that time, with drivers advised to use the A20 as a diversion.
Mr Mortazaie-Far added: "Between January and October, we’ll be using the moveable barrier as our traffic management barrier on the London-bound carriageway, for undertaking construction activities.
"This does not mean the Brock contraflow system will be active, but it will provide a more efficient and cost-effective way of being able to deploy the contraflow quickly and effectively should it be required."
'I am hopeful this will lead to the resurfacing of the M20...'
Mr Mortazaie-Far says from Saturday, January 29 lane closures will be needed on both carriageways "for approximately 40 weeks".
On the London-bound side, the two outside lanes will be closed, with work starting at the Ashford end of the motorway.
The hard shoulder will be in use, so there will be two lanes running London-bound, and a 50mph speed restriction will be in place.
On the coastbound carriageway, the outside lane will be closed, but bosses say they will "aim to only close the section of road where work is taking place".
Cllr Bartlett, who lives in Sevington, says he hopes the work will lead to the full resurfacing of the M20, which currently has a harsh concrete surface.
"I hope it means they are going to do the changes needed to the central reservation to facilitate the resurfacing between Junctions 8 and 9," he said.
"Because when they resurface the motorway to reduce the noise, they don't just put quiet tarmac down.
"They also change the central reservation so the noise can be deflected upwards.
"I have no idea if they're going to do that, but I hope they do.
"When Junction 10a was being spoken about more than 10 years ago, they did say they wanted all motorways to be resurfaced by 2026.
"I don't know if that's still the plan, but I am hopeful this will lead to the resurfacing of the M20."
National Highways says it will be carrying out an "extensive drainage upgrade" and installing new signs as part of the project.
For more details, email M20MoveableBarrier@highwaysengland.co.uk