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Councillors slam Highways England for traffic chaos on M2 and A2

By Ciaran Duggan, local democracy reporter

County councillors have slammed Highways England for causing "unacceptable" traffic chaos on the A2 last weekend following the closure of a section of motorway in East Kent.

Thousands of motorists suffered severe delays near Canterbury and Swale last Saturday as the first wave of planned M2 repair works started between junctions 5 (Sittingbourne) and 7 (Brenley Corner).

The motorway closure, which is expected to be in force again next weekend, coincided with roadworks and the installation of temporary traffic lights on the A2 at Faversham.

Some people were stuck for more than two hours in the traffic
Some people were stuck for more than two hours in the traffic

Cllr Mike Whiting, the highways cabinet member for Kent County Council, has told Highways England to halt this weekend's motorway closure in a "strongly"" worded letter.

Highways England has said the work will continue this weekend but assured motorists that the body is planning to make adjustments to ensure disruption is kept to an "absolute minimum".

Cllr Whiting's criticism of Highways England came during a public meeting at Maidstone County Hall earlier where he described the traffic delays as "unacceptable".

The Swale councillor said: "There were some huge problems for vehicles trying to use A2 from Canterbury to Faversham due to the closure of the M2 westbound by Highways England.

"Works are again expected to be carried out this weekend and I have written to them to suggest that would be unacceptable."

Stagecoach suspended all services into Faversham as a result of the traffic surrounding the town on Saturday, while frustrated drivers had no access to toilet facilities during the nightmare delays.

On Sunday, Highways put up more signs in a bid to ease congestion.

The roadworks caused severe delays at the weekend
The roadworks caused severe delays at the weekend

Cllr Andy Booth, supporting the Cllr Whiting's strong words, said: "The unacceptable conditions that were experienced on the A2 were exacerbated further by the continual use of lay-bys on the stretch by HGV drivers for parking overnight.

"The poor souls (in the jam) were unable to find a refuge in the lay-bys to take a break, which is unacceptable.

"I would urge Cllr Whiting to state to Highways England the unacceptable levels of pressure put on the roads of Kent in that area and something needs to be done about it."

In a bid to prevent huge tailbacks, Highways England installed more signage stretching back to Dover on Sunday, warning drivers to get off the A2.

Despite the concerns raised by councillors in the chamber, Highways England has said repair works will continue this weekend - these are expected to last until 5am on Monday.

The national motorway body has today said carrying out the work over three weekends will "considerably reduce" the number of closures on the M2 and help make the road "safe" and "reliable" in the long term.

A Highways England spokesman: “The vital work we are carrying out on the M2 has been carefully planned with our partners across Kent.

"By concentrating on three weekends we have been able to considerably reduce the number of closures on the M2.

There were huge delays on the M2 and the A2 at the weekend
There were huge delays on the M2 and the A2 at the weekend

"Where work takes place overnight during the week the road will be open in time for 4.30am, helping the people who rely on it for business and trade.

"Our work will repair and replace worn out sections of road, keeping journeys on the motorway safe and reliable.

"As well as laying more than 2000 tonnes of new road surface we are also using the opportunity to carry out other road maintenance, including litter picking, drainage work and sign maintenance, reducing the need for future roadworks."

Avoid getting stuck on Kent's roads by keeping up-to-date on all of the latest traffic and travel news here or by following our live blog.

Read more: All the latest news from Faversham

Read more: All the latest news from Sittingbourne

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