Published: 06:00, 02 November 2020
| Updated: 12:26, 02 November 2020
A father-of-two says a film crew forced him to ride his push-bike over the dangerously high Sheppey Crossing at night and in high winds because it had closed the Kingsferry Bridge for the weekend.
Sobhy Ghareb, 28, from Marine Parade, Sheerness , said: "I thought I was going to die. Cars kept beeping at me as they sped past. I was keeping as near to the outside wall as possible and pedalling as fast as I could to get home. It was a terrifying experience."
He says the night before he turned around and headed back to his place of work in Sittingbourne to spend the night shivering in an un-heated portable cabin by Asda.
But the second night he was determined to get back to his wife Gemma and his two young sons Hakeem, three, and Rida, two.
The real-life drama began on Saturday morning when a fleet of vans arrived to start shooting scenes for ITV's new three-part psychological thriller Too Close which stars Emily Watson and Denise Gough.
Watson was recently on screen in The Third Day and is known for her work in the Sky drama Chernobyl, BBC1’s Apple Tree Yard and the Bafta-winning drama Appropriate Adult for ITV.
Gough is a two-time Olivier Award winner for her roles in People, Places and Things and Angels in America.
The production company Snowed In had permission from Kent Highways to close the road until Monday morning. Southeastern had hired replacement buses because none of its trains could run between Sittingbourne and Sheerness with the Kingsferry Bridge up.
But Mr Ghareb was convinced he could still cycle along the old Sheppey Way because the road closure noticed issued by KCC said access for emergency vehicles and pedestrians would be "maintained at all times."
Pedestrians, cyclists and moped riders are banned from using the 35m (115 feet) tall Sheppey Crossing because without a hard shoulder and no protection from the wind it is considered too dangerous.
Mr Ghareb said: "I often taken my bike on the train but it is not allowed on buses. I had no other way of getting home on Sunday night."
His wife Gemma stormed: "My husband had no other option but to stay away from his family for the first night and then to get home by riding his bike over that big bridge and to endanger himself and others.
"The film company's security told him that was the only way he was going to get home. My children were crying because they didn't know where their daddy was. They always have tea with him after he comes home from work. The film company only cares about money, not peoples' lives. There should have been an escort or shuttle service over the crossing."
Other cyclists also took to social media to complain about the closure. Some said they had tried to flag down lorry drivers to get a lift onto the Island but were refused.
Ryan Woodard said: "I got stuck cycling off the Island one evening with the Kingsferry Bridge being shut for filming. Another cyclist biking home to Sittingbourne from work at the prison was also stuck.
"We were told to either wait until 2am when the filming was finished, go another way (which was no great help), cycle over the Sheppey Crossing which is illegal and extremely dangerous, or get a Uber."
He added: "Luckily, I was on a pleasure ride so it didn't matter much to me. But the other guy needed to get home. He asked if someone could give him a lift over the Sheppey Crossing in one of their trucks or vans but was told everyone was on a break.
"I am completely outraged and disgusted by this. There should have been a shuttle service running for however long the bridge was out of action. Mopeds, pedestrians and cyclists had no way to come on or leave the Island.
"In the end I offered to ferry the guy over in my car so we both cycled back to my house in Minster and I drove him over."
He added: "I knew filming was going on as I'd seen the crew assemble over the past few days. I'd assumed it was closed to cars but open to cyclists and pedestrians as it is our only option.
"With the money being spent, I can't understand why a shuttle service over the Sheppey Crossing wasn't put on for cyclists and pedestrians needing to cross. The council should have made this one of the conditions of shutting the road."
Chris Adams said: "It wasn't very well thought out at all. Saturday had very strong winds which made crossing the new bridge very dangerous but the police couldn't shut it like they usually do because there was no alternative on or off the Island so we just had signs telling us to slow down. "
Swale Cllr Cameron Beart (Con, Queenborough and Halfway) said: "Clearly over the weekend the correct procedures were not followed by the production company and they did not adhere to the closure agreements they made with Kent County Council.
"I have raised this with both Kent Highways and the Kent Film Office as this is wholly unacceptable and unfairly disrupted the lives of a fair number of our residents, in some cases even potentially putting them in unnecessary danger.
"Members of both Swale council and Kent County Council were assured that access would be maintained throughout the closure and on this basis I raised no objections.
"I understand that the company now wishes to return to complete filming at a future date but I feel they have a long way to go to persuade residents and the local authorities that they haven't burnt their bridges with Sheppey."
A spokesman for the Kent Film Office said: “We were shocked and disappointed to hear of the plight of Sheppey residents and workers due to the filming activities on Kingsferry Bridge.
“We can confirm that the closure was agreed to only under the condition that pedestrian and cyclist access would be maintained throughout, or additional transport provided.
“In the run-up to the closure, we were assured by the production company on several occasions that provisions had been made, including on the Friday prior to the filming.
“The location manager has apologised for this clear breach of the closure agreement. The production company acted irresponsibly and without due regard to Kent citizens.
“We have communicated this to the production representatives and stated that another closure would not be granted at this time without receiving satisfactory assurances.”
ITV has been asked for a comment