Published: 06:00, 19 January 2021
| Updated: 16:10, 19 January 2021
A driver has spoken of his terrifying ordeal after breaking down in the Operation Brock section of the M20.
HGV technician Wayne Russell was heading coastbound on Thursday at 5pm when his van suffered an electrical fault half a mile from Junction 9 for Ashford.
The carriageway is currently restricted for the Brexit traffic plan, but the Smeeth resident luckily broke down in a small stretch with a thin space between the central barrier and the live lane.
With his van still halfway in the carriageway, he sat nervously wondering what to do.
As a roadside worker, the 32-year-old put flashing beacons on the top of his car to raise awareness of his position.
He recalls: "I looked around for signs saying 'free recovery' or 'call this number for recovery' but couldn't see any.
"I looked back and saw blue lights, and thought the police would come to help.
"I was stuck in my van for more than 30 minutes, looking at lorries coming towards me in my mirrors and thinking 'please don't hit me'..."
"But it just drove past, as did another six throughout the 30 to 45 minutes I was stuck there."
Not wanting to leave the relative safety of his vehicle, he began calling around his colleagues to request help.
Eventually one did come to tow him away, but not before he'd had to turn off his beacons to conserve battery power for his hazard lights.
He's now vowed never to use that stretch of M20 again, and worries that someone could be seriously injured or killed.
He said: "We have to sit exams to be qualified to work on the roadside, but if my wife, brother or someone not in the industry was in that position, they wouldn't know what to do.
"I had all the safety equipment and training for that situation, but if someone with less knowledge - say an elderly person or a mother with her child - was in that position I think their brain would go into overdrive and they'd really panic.
"They'd probably call 999 and say 'my life's in danger', because it is. It was genuinely terrifying.
"You need hard shoulders to stand away from your vehicle and safely assess and solve the situation. I was stuck in my van for more than 30 minutes, looking at lorries coming towards me in my mirrors and thinking 'please don't hit me'."
Aside from the lack of hard shoulders, Mr Russell also noted the number of flashing signs, cones and police cars in the area, which is covered by a 50mph limit and features narrow lanes.
The flashing signs, he alleges, make drivers blind to hazard lights and even his specialist beacons.
"It's not a situation anyone wants to be in and it's not about my personal feelings - it's simply a dangerous bit of road..."
Mr Russell now wants action to be taken to make the "dangerous" road safer, and hopes his experience will lead to change.
He said: "It's not a situation anyone wants to be in and it's not about my personal feelings - it's simply a dangerous bit of road.
"If you can avoid it, avoid it. I got away with it, but I don't want to see a post pop up on Facebook saying a mother and child - or anyone for that matter - have been killed after breaking down there."
Mr Russell was eventually helped by a friend to safety.
A Highways England spokesman said: “We take safety through roadworks very seriously and keep the safety performance of our road network continually under review.
"The breakdown on January 14 occurred in the free recovery zone and we spotted it immediately via our dedicated CCTV team.
"We despatched the recovery vehicle which arrived, and was able to warn other drivers of the hazard ahead. The broken down vehicle was recovered and the carriageway safely cleared quickly."
While there is no hard shoulder on the stretch of road, the spokesman pointed to other safety measures including 24 hour CCTV coverage, free recovery, reduced speed limits within the contraflow, a dedicated control room staffed 24/7 and a traffic officer.