Published: 06:00, 31 October 2019
| Updated: 14:50, 31 October 2019
A major motorway junction has opened to traffic for the first time.
From today, drivers will be able to use the coastbound slip roads on the M20's new junction 10A at Ashford following almost two years of construction.
The roundabout is partially replacing the nearby junction 10 and has been in the pipeline for 11 years.
The junction is one of Ashford Borough Council's 'Big 8' projects, seen as essential to the growth of the borough and its financial future.
Twice it was suggested that two of junction 10's slip roads would be closed before 10A's were complete, but each time this was postponed following public outcries.
In spite of getting an extension to on-site work hours the deadline was passed and project lead Tom Selby of Highways England announced at an Ashford Borough Council meeting that construction could run over in to November.
With 10A seen as crucial to Kent's Brexit preparations, Ashford MP Damian Green successfully petitioned Michael Gove to accelerate the opening of a section of the roundabout.
KMTV reports on how junction 10A will 'transform' the M20
It was revealed afterwards that the whole scheme would be pushed back to allow only lorries to access the junction from October 31.
But now all road users will be able to use the gyratory's coast-bound slip roads from today.
Project manager Tom Selby said:“Having the new junction 10a coast-facing slip roads open for drivers to use is great news that will benefit thousands of drivers every day and improve access to and from Ashford.
“Opening these new slip roads enables us to move on to the next stage of the project and move towards finishing the junction. We anticipate the junction being fully functional in December, with full completion of the scheme following soon after.
"This upgrade is the biggest boost for Ashford since the arrival of international rail services 20 years ago and it is great to have this first section of the new junction open and delivering benefits already.”
Highways England has said the full project - including the installation of new footbridges, the closure of J10's coast-bound slip roads and landscaping - is expected to be complete by Winter.
From Monday, November 11 the J10 coast-bound slip onto the M20 and the London-bound exit slip road are set to be permanently closed, allowing construction to be finished on the new London-facing slips at junction 10a.
The junction's west-facing slips will be opened in December
The end of the 10A works will come as a welcome relief to nearby business owners and residents, who have called living next to it "hell".
More by this authorCharlie Harman