Published: 15:31, 01 April 2021
| Updated: 17:11, 01 April 2021
Traffic control by police at one of Kent's busiest junctions will finally end tonight after weeks of misery for motorists.
Hauliers have not been allowed to travel via the route as part of Operation Brock - following the end of the EU transition period - so have been forced to turn around and travel via the M20 instead.
But a partial lane closure at the roundabout has led to traffic chaos, with queues building in all directions and leading to some journey times being doubled.
Although many motorists will welcome this news, drivers are set to be hit with a fresh round of disruption next week when a two-and-a-half-month closure of a major road begins.
Three-way traffic lights are to be installed at the notorious junction of the A251 and A2, as part of a £1.6 million scheme hoped to reduce congestion and improve safety.
The major overhaul, which will begin on Tuesday, will see a 420-metre section of the A251 closed to all traffic until June 18, with traffic diverted via Brenley Corner.
Motorist and Boughton resident Anthony Surtees, 44, has said how his journey time to collect his daughter from Abbey School has doubled because of the recent Brenley Corner traffic management.
He says a trip that usually takes 25 minutes from Boughton to Faversham at 2pm instead took 50 minutes yesterday.
"It is not a good roundabout at the best of times anyway," he said.
"There is not much warning before you get there of what is happening. If you didn’t know the area at all, you wouldn’t know the lane is going to be closed."
Police stationed at Brenley Corner have turned around more than 350 HGVs during the past 24 hours.
Faversham county councillor Antony Hook (Lib Dem) welcomed news that the traffic control will end.
“It has been a complete disaster every day since it has been in place," he said.
“My daughter goes to nursery and it made that car journey much longer - especially when you have a toddler, as that is quite challenging.
“I’ve had lots of residents contacting me who have had real problems getting to work, children to school, to medical appointments, and carers getting to a family member who need them.
“The police previously parked on the pavement, but I don’t understand why they closed half the roundabout, which seems to have caused the congestion.”
'It has been a complete disaster everyday since it has been in place...'
The traffic management will be removed tonight, but enforcement activity will continue using alternative policing methods - which may include traffic management elsewhere.
Faversham and Mid Kent MP Helen Whately (Con) also welcomed the decision, and said: “Brenley Corner can be a nightmare at the best of times and blocking off part of the junction is making traffic problems even worse.
“I raised people’s concerns with Kent Police, and I’m pleased that traffic management is being removed from this junction. Kent Police have been working exceptionally hard over the past few months to stop lorries accessing Dover via the A2 and keep traffic flowing along our roads.
“It’s vital that restrictions on HGV movements are enforced, and I’m pleased that Kent Police are going to continue this using alternative methods. We need to do everything possible to keep Kent moving."
She also said that she is continuing to press the case for Brenley Corner to get the "upgrade it badly needs" as the junction is a "notorious traffic black spot".
“If Swale’s Local Plan goes ahead this junction could be permanently gridlocked," she added. "We need a plan for infrastructure, not just new homes."
Assistant Chief Constable Nikki Faulconbridge of Kent Police said: "As part of the existing traffic management plan to keep Kent moving following the end of the EU transition period, HGVs are not permitted to use the M2/A2 route to access the Port of Dover and must join Operation Brock on the M20.
"Our officers have been stationed at Brenley Corner to ensure any HGVs in breach of the traffic order are made to turn around and travel back down to the M20.
"This has unfortunately resulted in some traffic delays in the area and we thank motorists for their patience and understanding.
"The traffic management on the roundabout was always due to be removed this evening (Thursday) ahead of the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.
"We will however use alternative methods to continue to take enforcement action against any HGV drivers who bypass Operation Brock, which may require traffic management elsewhere in order to protect the public and Kent Police officers."
Meanwhile, the A251 is to be shut in both directions between the fire station and the new roundabout for Aldi and Premier Inn from Tuesday.
Its closure means disrupted motorists wanting to head from Faversham towards Ashford will need to go up to Brenley Corner and down the M2 to Junction 6 before getting back on their intended route along the A251. The four-mile diversion route is the same for those heading in the other direction.
The busy junction is already the town’s busiest pinch-point, and now thousands of extra homes are planned for the south-eastern area of Faversham - meaning the road network will have to cater for a heavy increase in future usage.
As it currently stands, queues regularly build up on the A251 and drivers are left in no man’s land when attempting to turn right onto the A2.
"Sadly, the A251 closure to get them installed is an unfortunate price that local people have to pay."
Borough councillor and driving instructor Eddie Thomas (Lib Dem) says installing traffic lights and a pedestrian crossing will make everyone feel safer.
“I never turn right out of the junction as it’s too dangerous, and as an instructor I wouldn’t encourage people to do that,” he said. "So the lights will improve safety.
"Sadly, the A251 closure to get them installed is an unfortunate price that local people have to pay.
"Engineers say it will improve traffic flow. Only time will tell but I guess they can tweak the lights if traffic is not flowing as freely as they hope it will.”
Kent County Council, which is behind the scheme, says access to the fire station and to residential properties will be maintained at all times.
The authority approved the junction redevelopment last autumn after considering a number of options.
It is recognised that the current configuration is operating over capacity and resulting in “serious levels of congestion and delay” which are “harming the economic wellbeing of the town”.
Cllr Thomas added: “I was unsure about the plan to begin with, but I’m definitely pleased we’ll be getting a pedestrian crossing.
“I hope it’ll encourage a lot more walking and cycling as it’ll be safer.
“We only have one crossing on the A2 and that’s in Ospringe and we’re persistently committed to pushing KCC for more crossings.
“So to have a new one is very welcome news for a lot of residents.
“I do sympathise with the inconvenience it’ll cause during these works, but when there is big change there is always usually going to be short-term inconvenience.”