Published: 13:00, 14 March 2019
| Updated: 15:16, 14 March 2019
Traffic misery for motorists could last until the end of the month as emergency roadworks continue to bring Canterbury to a standstill.
Major routes in and out of the city have been clogged up since last Friday, when a burst water main forced the closure of the busy rat-run along Shalloak Road.
At the same time, drivers looking to swerve the gridlock have instead been caught up in queues caused by traffic lights in St Stephen’s Hill, Littlebourne Road and Whitstable Road.
Exasperated motorists have told how morning commutes into the city are taking up to to an hour-and-a-half from as nearby as Herne Bay.
And with pupils late for class because of delayed buses, one school – the Spires Academy – was forced to reschedule mock exams.
But those living in Shalloak Road have been left most frustrated, criticising the lack of work on site by South East Water contractors.
The main burst on Friday morning, cutting off water to 29 houses nearby and badly damaging the road service.
But work to repair the highway has moved at a snail’s pace, with neighbours reporting no workmen on site for five days.
Ivor Herdson, who lives at Broad Oak Lodge, said: “It’s getting on our nerves that they aren’t even working on it. The road has been closed and a digger has been put across it but there have been no workmen there until today.
“I thought they might arrive over the weekend, seeing as it’s an emergency, but no one turned up then, or on Monday or Tuesday. Something should be done.”
Mr Herdson, 66, says journeys into Canterbury have become unbearable.
“We can’t even get to the shops in less than an hour, even though we can see them from here,” he said.
“It took my wife two hours to get to Ashford; the first hour and a quarter was spent getting out of Canterbury.
“It takes my son, who’s a student, about 15 minutes to get to the university, but that journey took him an hour-and-a-quarter.
“The whole of Canterbury is virtually gridlocked.”
Delays are being exacerbated by roadworks on other busy routes into the city.
Those travelling in from Whitstable through Tyler Hill are experiencing queues stretching back to Clowes Wood, while commuters from Herne Bay taking the same route are held up at the Thornden Wood Road junction.
The cause is traffic lights in St Stephen’s Hill, which are in place while South East Water fixes another main that burst on Saturday.
The work is expected to be completed by the end of the week.
Elsewhere, three-way traffic controls are holding up drivers in Littlebourne Road while an electricity supply to the new Redrow housing estate is installed.
Motorists travelling in through Blean are also hitting lights, this time to allow maintenance work by BT.
A Kent County Council-operated sign in Littlebourne Road warns drivers to expect delays because of the Shalloak Road closure until March 28, while the current permit issued to the utility company gives a date of March 18.
Its distribution manager, Mark Rice, said: “We are working as quickly as possible to repair Shalloak Road after the damage caused by the burst water main.
“The split pipe was 12 inches in diameter, which is quite large. As a consequence there was a lot of damage to the road, which needs to be put right before we can reopen it.
“Currently our contractors are not on site operationally, but there is a lot of preliminary work which needs to be done before they can do so and this is taking place.
“The repair needs a lot of careful planning because the verge on this stretch of road needs to be put back correctly and safely.
“We are working closely with Kent Highways on the timescale and anticipate we will need to extend the road closure permit beyond the current date.
“The road closure is necessary to ensure the safety of the public and our workforce but we know it has caused disruption to motorists.
“We are sorry the two bursts happened in quick succession on very busy stretches of roads in Canterbury.”