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Transport Secretary gave order for M20 barriers to stay in place until October

An order from the Transport Secretary is the reason why the steel barrier on the M20 is remaining in place until at least October - forcing motorists to travel along the motorway at 50mph.

The revelation that Chris Grayling is directly behind the ongoing restrictions on the London-bound stretch came at a joint transportation board meeting at Ashford Borough Council last week.

Council chiefs have now agreed to write to the Epsom and Ewell MP calling for a third lane to be opened.

Operation Brock was in place earlier this year, but was lifted in April
Operation Brock was in place earlier this year, but was lifted in April

Motorists have already faced months of disruption after the barrier was put in place earlier this year for the controversial Operation Brock contraflow, restricting the route to just two lanes.

The steelwork was installed between junctions 8 and 9 partly to deal with the prospect of a no-deal Brexit and enable traffic to keep moving in the event of congestion and disruption at the Channel ports.

But even though the contraflow was lifted in April and the Brexit deadline was pushed back until October 31, the barrier, narrow lanes and 50mph limit are all still in place.

Speaking at the meeting last week, Kent County Council’s senior highway manager Toby Howe defended Highways England, reporting the traffic authority is not behind the decision to maintain the measures.

“This is a diktat from the Secretary of State to Highways England that Brock will remain as is for as long as is needed,” he said.

“I’d suggest writing to Chris Grayling as he’s the one who’s instructed Highways England to do what it has done.”

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. Picture: Andy Payton
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. Picture: Andy Payton

The council's deputy leader Paul Bartlett (Con) showed surprise at the Secretary of State’s intervention.

Earlier this year, Mr Grayling faced criticism for his role in ferry deals designed to avert congestion in the event of no-deal - which would have included a freight service from Ramsgate in a no-deal scenario for Britain leaving the EU.

Cllr Bartlett said: “I didn’t realise this decision to keep the fixed barrier in the current configuration would’ve been made by Chris Grayling.

“I suppose all I can say is that, with his track record of decision making, perhaps this decision is consistent.

“I think it’s ludicrous to have only two lanes.

How KMTV reported the barriers are to remain in place last month

“I understand the work needed to reconfigure the barriers is only 48 hours of work.

“It’s irresponsible to impose this level of disruption on Ashford and Folkestone residents for 48 hours of work.

“I think it’s incumbent on all secretaries of state and ministers to up their game in regards to Brexit preparations.”

Cllr Bartlett - whose calls for a third lane to be opened were met with support by a host of councillors - also expressed a hope that the next Prime Minister will review the situation on the M20.

The barrier is still in place on the London-bound stretch
The barrier is still in place on the London-bound stretch

Summing up the council’s proposed action on opening the third lane, Cllr Bartlett asked his fellow committee members if they would support a letter to Mr Grayling.

The suggestion was met with unanimous approval, but Highways England has previously said reopening three lanes would require the barrier to be repositioned and that keeping two lanes “is essential to enable Brock to be implemented again within a short time frame if necessary".

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