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Maidstone: Barming sinkhole A26 Tonbridge Road finally set to reopen five months after collapse

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Workers have spent more than 8,000 hours fixing it over the last five months - now a road left in tatters when a giant sinkhole opened up if finally set to reopen.

The now infamous void in Barming, Maidstone, first emerged on May 28, taking a huge chunk of the Tonbridge Road with it and forcing 10 homes to be evacuated.

It has sparked gridlock on an almost daily basis on the surrounding roads, while nearby businesses such as Taj Barming have also suffered, with the Indian restaurant claiming the sinkhole has swallowed up some £200,000 of business.

The road finally set to reopen to traffic on Sunday, after a series of delays for which Kent County Council has come under intense criticism.

Early investigations found numerous voids and extensive soft spots on the site which meant KCC needed to investigate geotechnical solutions to stabilise the ground.

Once able to acquire specialists, work took place throughout July up to mid-August using 1,043 metric tonnes of grout to strengthen the soil, down to 11 metres under the road, in an area not much larger than a tennis court.

Once works to replace the sewer were completed alongside work by gas and electricity companies, KCC was able to finish the road surfacing and complete the job - with the project's bill totalling some £1 million.

Councillors on Maidstone council's joint transportation board have leapt to the defence of the team involved in the project.

The sinkhole in Tonbridge Road
The sinkhole in Tonbridge Road

Cllr Ian Chittenden of the Liberal Democrats said: "As a result of what has gone on there, and the time it has taken, KCC have taken a lot of stick and criticism from some people and I think it has been totally wrong.

"I can't think of anything that's more difficult on a busy road like this, bearing in mind it was very difficult to assess whether they needed all the strengthening work and they had to bring in specialist equipment.

"They've taken a lot of criticism wrongly and I want to congratulate the team that did it.

"At the end of the day, we will be glad to see the back of it, and glad to see it opened, but from my point of view, they have, under difficult circumstances, done a good job."

The sinkhole opened up on the A26 Tonbridge Road in Barming back in May
The sinkhole opened up on the A26 Tonbridge Road in Barming back in May

His sentiments were echoed by Conservative Cllr Gary Cooke, but the county councillor called for lessons to be learned from the experience.

"I think we've done a superb job, but we need to look at the way this has gone," he said.

"We are talking about a significant period of disruption."

KCC cabinet member for highways Mike Whiting added: “The significant work we’ve done with ground stabilisation and renewal of utility infrastructure will increase resilience against future failure and prevent the need for any further utility works.

Work at the Tonbridge Road sinkhole
Work at the Tonbridge Road sinkhole
The sinkhole on the A26 Tonbridge Road
The sinkhole on the A26 Tonbridge Road

“Whilst I appreciate residents’ frustration with the time it has taken, this has been a huge undertaking and something we have never dealt with before.

"It required specialist contractors which are not always readily available, as well as significant planning.

“I’d like to say thank you for the hard work that has gone into ensuring the road is once again safe and open for use.”

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