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Shock as sinkhole closure of Tonbridge Road in Maidstone is extended by a week

Motorists and residents have been rocked this morning by the news that the closure of Tonbridge Road will last another week.

The busy route into Maidstone has been closed since Friday, October 22, after a huge gap opened up in the carriageway.

The road closure will stay another week
The road closure will stay another week

South East Water has been carrying out repairs to a burst 4" water main, and it had been expected that the closure would be lifted tomorrow, Friday, but now the company has said repairs will take another week.

The burst main itself has been repaired, but restoring the road carriageway is proving more difficult than expected.

Andy Beston, the regional network manager for South East Water, said: "After working with other utility companies and Kent County Council Highways, we will soon be in a position to safely re-instate the road surface.

"To make the road stronger and reduce the risk of this happening again, we will be using more layers of material than is standard for a road surface repair.

"We anticipate this work will be complete, with the road re-opened, by the end of next week: Friday, November 12."

Andy Beston of South East Water
Andy Beston of South East Water

Mr Beston said: "We’d like to thank the local community and motorists for their patience while we carry out this essential work with everyone’s safety at the forefront of our minds."

Ward councillor Ashleigh Kimmance said he was "flabbergasted" by the news.

He said: "I'm totally shocked . I wouldn't have thought the work should take that long.

"KCC assured by a week ago that the road would re-open this Friday."

After the 5m by 6m wide appeared, near the junction of Cherry Orchard Way, traffic has being stopped either side of the void at the Tesco petrol station and at Barming Fish and Chip shop.

Cllr Ashleigh Kimmance: 'Flabbergasted'
Cllr Ashleigh Kimmance: 'Flabbergasted'

A diversion has been in place, which until now has been working well with only limited extra traffic congestion,

But Norman Kemp, who runs Nu Venture bus company said that although there had been little disruption to bus services so far, that had been largely because the first week of the closure had coincided with half term for local schools, and although some pupils went back to class this week, many have remained off as some schools have extended the half-term break to two weeks.

Cllr Kimmance said: "Next week all the schools will be back, so there is certain to be a lot of congestion.

"It's also a huge blow for businesses in the area, some of which have seen their income badly hit."

Kiron Haque owns the Taj Barming restaurant. His business was devastated the last time that a sinkhole opened up in the Tonbridge Road in 2018, just 500m from the present crater. On that occasion repairs took five months and he estimated he lost £200,000 in business.

Increased congestion on the Tonbridge Road as a result of the closure
Increased congestion on the Tonbridge Road as a result of the closure

Hearing the news of the extension today, he said: "This is getting to be like last time around. Then they said it would be a few days, then a week, then two weeks, then a month - it ended up as five months!"

Mr Haque said his business had again been hard hit by the road closure.

He said: "We hadn't really got back to pre-pandemic levels in any case, but now we are just dead during the week.

"We had our first dine-in customer last night, the previous two days there has been no-one at all."

Mr Haque said he was still doing a business in take-away meals, but that too had been hit.

Kiron Haque, owner of the Taj Barming
Kiron Haque, owner of the Taj Barming

He said: "A local delivery that might have taken 15 minutes before is now, because of the diversion, taking 40 minutes.

"I've had to take on an extra driver so as not to keep customers waiting, so we are facing extra costs, but with fewer sales.

He said: "South East Water and KCC really need to put some energy into this.

"Quiet often you go along there and you won't see anyone working on the site at all.

"I don't think they give two hoots about the public or local businesses."

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