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Iwade feared to be missed by Chalkwell Coach Hire 334 bus route due to Kingsferrry Bridge and Grovehurst junction closures

A village on a main bus route could be isolated due to two major road closures happening at the same time.

Bosses at Chalkwell Coach Hire, a bus operator in Swale, have warned that the ongoing works at the Grovehurst roundabout junction will cause chaos to its services while Network Rail shuts the Kingsferry Bridge later this month.

Chalkwell managing director Roland Eglinton
Chalkwell managing director Roland Eglinton

Managing director, Roland Eglinton, has explained that the company’s 334 bus, which runs between Sittingbourne and Sheerness, will face an “enormous challenge” when 40 steel ropes that lift the 64-year-old bridge, which connects Sheppey with the mainland, are replaced.

Disruption is expected due to the bridge repairs overlapping with the current slip road closures at the Grovehurst junction due to a £32.7m scheme which will see the dumbbell design replaced with a single roundabout.

Network Rail is closing Kingsferry to drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and maritime traffic from 10pm on Friday, June 7, until 5am on Monday, June 10.

The next set of closures will last for nine days from Friday, June 28 to Sunday, July 7, then from Friday, July 12 until Monday, July 15.

Another nine-day closure will take place from Friday, July 19 to Sunday, July 28, all closures will start at 10pm on the first day and finish at 5am on the last.

Roland said: “With these closures happening at the same time, buses will not be able to travel north from Iwade towards Sheppey, as both routes will be unusable.

“The only alternative will be for buses to loop back to the Bobbing junction before heading north again.

“Not only does this have a massive time penalty for our customers, but the increase in traffic at this point is likely to cause gridlock.”

Network Rail and Kent County Council Highways (KCC), who are responsible for the Grovehurst junction work, explained to Chalkwell that the schemes have to happen at the same time because the Kingsferrry Bridge cables have to be changed every 30 years.

Roland said: “Why the cables can't be done before or after the closures at Grovehurst, I'm told, is due to safety concerns, which I'm not in a position to dispute.

The affected bus route. Picture: KM Graphics and Google Earth
The affected bus route. Picture: KM Graphics and Google Earth

“However, at the moment, they are still not forthcoming in terms of helping us solve the problems around Iwade.

“The two schemes should really have been co-ordinated. There is potential for many people in Iwade to not have ready access to a bus.

Chalkwell Coach Hire is a local family business, and Roland says this means the company is in touch with what is going on in the area.

He added: “Our absolute priority will be to get children to school on time. All morning school bus journeys coming into Sittingbourne and Sheerness will run 15 minutes earlier.

“The main hurdle that we've got is the all-day 334 bus service, which goes backwards and forwards from the Island.

“We've put some suggested schemes to Network Rail where they can assist us to provide additional resources. But they're not being forthcoming at the moment in terms of saying what they will and won't do.”

Customers are advised to check the Chalkwell website and social media channels for updates.

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We are carrying out urgent repairs to the Kingsferry Bridge this summer, replacing the 40 steel ropes which lift the bridge for maritime traffic.

“These ropes were last replaced in 1995 and are now coming to the end of their life. Recent Magnetic Resonance Testing (MRT) has found that some of the ropes have degraded and urgently need to be replaced.

“When work is taking place the bridge will be closed to motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and maritime traffic.

Kingsferry Bridge connects the Isle of Sheppey to the mainland. Picture: Stock Image
Kingsferry Bridge connects the Isle of Sheppey to the mainland. Picture: Stock Image

“As a taxpayer funded organisation, we cannot offer money to private businesses affected by our work. We are doing all we can to engage the community on the island to make them aware of the closures and changes to their journey so that they can plan ahead”.

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