Published: 06:00, 11 August 2020
| Updated: 20:26, 11 August 2020
Work on a controversial new flyover across the A2 is now under way – but those behind it have not ruled out applying the brakes should future projects dictate it.
The £112 million overhaul of the Bean and Ebbsfleet junctions - near Bluewater - will upgrade the existing road network over the next two years with 20,000 new homes planned for the area.
KMTV report on work beginning on the A2 junctions
Highways England, which is in charge of the scheme, won approval from the transport secretary in June following a public inquiry last year.
The work will see increased capacity for both junctions to make sure they can cope with additional traffic demand but bosses have not ruled out tweaking the designs should the multi-billion pound proposed London Resort theme park get approval.
Peter Phillips, who heads up the South East programme at Highways England said: “The A2 is a key route connecting people, communities and businesses including the Bluewater shopping centre between London and the Kent Thameside area.
“Upgrading it will also provide additional capacity to accommodate the many new developments proposed, while improving journey times and increasing safety, which is good news for the local and regional economy.”
The work is due to take more than two years to complete with Highways England currently estimating the new junctions will be open in spring 2022.
But the government-owned company has not ruled out slowing the project down to take account of potential future developments.
This includes the planned theme park in Swanscombe which unveiled it public consultation last month with critics already highlighting the existing road infrastructure as a potential sticking point.
"We will have the option to pause and think again," Mr Phillips added.
He explained while their own fine-tuned plans for the junctions had received approval they were subject to redesign and change if needs be.
With regards to London Resort, Mr Phillips said they were engaging in discussions with the park's planners should they need to accommodate their vision.
In the meantime, Peter conceded there will be some level of disruption to locals while the works get underway but added they were working "really hard" to keep this to a minimum.
"We are open if any residents have any particular problems," he said, adding they would listen and respond to any particular concerns.
The plans have been met with opposition from villagers nearby after compulsory purchase orders meant nearby cottages would be demolished to make way for the expanded junctions.
Dartford council supports the principle of the junction but had criticised the plans for failing to allow for making the A2 wider in future, adding that it had not provided a "robust solution for the future".
Despite this the authority said it was pleased work had already started and that Highways England are seeking to progress the works in as short a timescale as possible.
The two junctions are 1.2 miles apart with Bean linking traffic with Bluewater and Ebbsfleet junction joining the A2 with the B259 Southfleet Road.
The proposals will see the Bean junction retain its existing layout but making the roundabouts larger and with traffic lights.
This includes enlarging the current roundabouts and adding in new signalised crossings for pedestrians and cyclists.
A new bridge over the A2 for southbound traffic will also be provided to the east of the existing Bean Lane bridge, which will be retained for northbound traffic.
This will start next spring and open in autumn 2021 with a new slip road also to be built on to the A2 for the eastbound traffic.
At the Ebbsfleet junction, Highways England says the proposals "will broadly follow the existing road layout" but with the roundabouts extended and traffic lights installed.
A dual carriageway will be created to link the roundabouts with the A2 off slip roads kept and the slip roads on to the A2 widened.
If the works follow the scheduled plan, the roads will be fully open by spring 2022.
The Ebbsfleet Development Corporation, tasked with overseeing the creation of the new Garden City between Gravesend and Dartford earmarked £45m towards the project.
Chief executive, Ian Piper, said the works starting is crucial to the future development in Ebbsfleet.
He said: “These improvements to the junctions on the A2 that serve the new Garden City are part of the vital infrastructure required to realise the vision for the area.
"It is great to see that work has started despite the obvious extra complexities that the coronavirus has meant for such projects.”