There are fears Ashford residents will face “absolute chaos” on the town’s roads when part of the M20 is closed this weekend.
National Highways is to shut the carriageway between Junctions 9 and 10a as essential repairs are carried out on a bridge over the River Stour.
Bosses say drivers should take a lengthy 88-mile diversion including the M2 and A2 - adding an extra one hour and 30 minutes to journeys.
But those in Ashford say drivers won’t follow the official route and will head through the town instead.
Driving instructor Tony Murphy, who has more than 25 years experience teaching in the town, says he expects the closure to add pressure to the road network.
“It will cause gridlock and everyone is fed up with it, but it happens on a regular basis,” he said.
“The M20 is not like a motorway anymore. There’s Operation Brock which can be there for ages and there are always speed restrictions.
“A simple journey like going to Maidstone is such a headache at times, I just take the A20 instead and I expect most people will do the same. It will be manic on the roads.”
During the closure, National Highways workers will be upgrading the Great River Stour bridge between Ashford Rugby Club and Heathfield Road.
It is the first in a number of planned works on the stretch in the coming days.
The coastbound M20 between Junctions 9 and 10a will be closed:
– 8pm Friday, April 21 to 6am Monday, April 24
– Monday 24 to Friday, April 28 – each night from 8pm to 6am
– 8pm Sunday, April 30 to 6am Monday, May 1
The London-bound M20 between Junctions 10a and 9 will be closed:
– 8pm Friday, April 21 to 6am Saturday, April 22
– 8pm Sunday, April 23 to 6am Monday, April 24
– 8pm Friday, April 28 to 6am Monday, May 1
– Monday 1 to Thursday, May 4 – each night from 8pm to 6am
While the stretch is closed, National Highways is advising drivers to take a diversion which avoids the A20.
The suggested route will take coastbound motorists from the M20 Junction 6 for Maidstone via the A229, then on the M2 past Sittingbourne and Faversham, on the A2 past Canterbury and then on to the A20 through Dover and Folkestone before coming back to Ashford via the M20.
The same route applies in reverse for London-bound traffic.
Responding to the news on Facebook, one resident said it will be a “nightmare for the people who live in Ashford if lorries are going down Hythe Road through town to Junction 9” while another said the closure “will absolute chaos”.
Commenting on the diversion, a spokesman from National Highways said: “We’ve worked closely with the local authorities in the area, Kent County Council, Dover Council and Eurotunnel to agree a route that is suitable for all vehicles that reduces the impact on local communities.”
They say the repairs being carried out to the bridge are “critical for safety reasons”.
It will see expansion joints replaced, resurfacing and waterproofing works carried out.