Published: 16:00, 21 September 2017
| Updated: 16:35, 21 September 2017
It’s taken three years and cost £70m, but today one of the county’s busiest stretches of road was officially opened after a vital upgrade.
It is hoped the revamp - to the A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury - will help ease congestion for the 35,000 vehicles who use it every day, while also improving connections between London and Hastings.
The work involved expanding 2.5 miles of single carriageway into two lanes, with three new junctions and four new bridges.
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Today the ribbon was cut by Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat, at a ceremony in Southborough attended by representatives from Highways England, constructors Balfour Beatty, Kent County Council and Tonbridge and Malling and Tunbridge Wells borough councils.
Mr Tugendhat said: “For decades this road has suffered from severe congestion and the new route should mean that such frequent delays are a thing of the past.
“This is an important project in achieving greater connections between our communities and I’m thankful to all the residents in local towns and villages who have had to deal with the impact during construction.”
Work started on the scheme in April 2015 and was originally expected to finish in December 2016. However setbacks, including the discovery of more than 35,000 tonnes of asbestos-contaminated soil, delayed completion.
As part of the project, some residents had to move out after Highways England compulsorily purchased four houses and offered those living there compensation.
The scheme also included moving an ancient woodland and removing a Grade II listed barn at May Day Farm, which will be rebuilt at Weald and Downland Open Air Museum.
The project has been in the pipeline for some time. Long-term supporter of the scheme, Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark, first announced dualling was going ahead in June 2009, after approval by the then Labour Secretary of State for Transport, Lord Adonis.
It was cancelled in 2010 by the incoming Tory government. Prior to that, in 1997, a Tory-developed scheme was cancelled by Blair’s government.
Mr Clark said: “Today is a proud moment for our local community – we have all campaigned long and hard for the dualling of the A21. Already the old narrow, dark and dangerous road seems a distant memory.”