Published: 06:00, 26 July 2019
| Updated: 10:09, 26 July 2019
Construction work on the Junction 10a scheme may start being carried out on Sundays and bank holidays.
An application has been made by Highways England to extend working hours on the multi-million pound project in Ashford.
Submitted to the Planning Inspectorate, the extensions seek to utilise the dry weather for groundworks.
If approved, crews would work an hour later each weekday - until 7pm - five hours longer on Saturdays - until 6pm instead of 1pm - and from 8am to 5pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Cllr Paul Bartlett, vice-chairman of Ashford Borough Council’s joint transportation board and the authority’s deputy leader, lives nearby in Cheeseman’s Green Lane.
He said: “The project has caused stress for the community because of diversions and speed limits so I hope the additional hours will speed up the work and bring the project to a swift conclusion.
“There have been considerable delays and tailbacks around Junction 10 during the work and the incidences of queue jumping at the junction, and on the approach roads, causes stress.
“There have also been reductions in air quality and increases in dust during the works - the change of working hours will make things worse in the short term but once the work is completed air quality should improve.”
Highways England has previously said the £104m junction is scheduled to open to road users in September, with works continuing until summer next year.
When asked for an update by KentOnline, the roads authority said it is still planning to open in the autumn.
Cllr Bartlett added: “I attended the original planning hearings and assurances were given as to operating hours so while it is disappointing to hear Highways England need more hours, I think that overall it should be supported subject to the caveat of enhanced enforcement of moving traffic violations on the M20.
“It is noteworthy that highways has increased the speed limit from 50mph to 60mph on the M20 coastbound, but it is now time the speed limits were enforced across all road users on the M20.
“The announcement from police that they will not enforce overseas speeding and tailgating lorries on the M20 is completely unacceptable as tailgating lorries cause anxiety to motorists following the speed limit.
“So, any agreement to the increased hours should come with enhanced enforcement of moving traffic violations on the M20.
“UK drivers expect a level playing field and all traffic regulations should be enforced on all road users.”
A Highways England spokesman says bosses are looking to open the junction as soon as possible.
“The change to the order increases the efficiency of the project’s resources and provide an opportunity to mitigate the effects of inclement weather on our earthworks operations,” he said.
“It’s always been our intention to open the road in the autumn. However, we’ll do our utmost to open the scheme as early as we can.”
The deadline for public comments on Highways England’s application was last Friday.
It is not yet known when the Planning Inspectorate will decide whether to approve the extended hours.
Bosses at the Pilgrims Hospice on the A20, which is just a stone’s throw away from the construction site, say they are taking a “pragmatic view” about the proposed timetable changes.
A spokesman for the charity said: “The application is a minor change of one hour per day in the week and weekend working - if this helps to get the work completed sooner or on time we accept that it is reasonable."
“Pilgrims operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year; the families we support come to us throughout this time so there are no specific ‘quiet days or rest days’ as such.
“The teams working on the project for Highways England have been very mindful of the nature of the work we do at Pilgrims and have done everything they can to be considerate.
“We understand the work is vital for the long term development of the surrounding area so we accept that this disruption is unavoidable.
“We have noise monitors on the building and we are always advised of what is going on and if they anticipate any significant change as the work progresses.
“We would hope this extra push would help to bring the work to completion faster.”
When asked about the benefits the new junction could bring to the charity, the hospice said: “We do not believe there will be any specific benefit to Pilgrims following completion of the work.
“It has been mooted that there may be less traffic in the longer term needing to use this road.
“However with the new housing that is going up, we do not envisage a reduction in local traffic.
“It may just slow and reduce the traffic coming off the current motorway exit needing to use this bit of the road.”
More by this authorCharlie Harman