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The Sittingbourne School pupils arriving late due to A249 lane closure for Grovehurst roundabout project

Hundreds of pupils are arriving late to school due to the “ludicrous” A249 lane closures.

The head teacher of The Sittingbourne School says the traffic management in place for the Grovehurst roundabout project has left children sitting on buses for more than an hour-and-a-half – “causing them physical and emotional discomfort”.

Hundreds of school pupils are arriving late due to the A249 lane closures
Hundreds of school pupils are arriving late due to the A249 lane closures

The disruption comes after Kent County Council (KCC) was awarded £38.1 million to improve the roundabout, near Sittingbourne.

The “dumbbell” junction at the Grovehurst roundabout is being replaced with a two-bridge flyover.

As a result, its exit and entry slip lanes on and off the A249 will be closed until January.

A lane of the A249 has also been shut Maidstone-bound between Cowstead Corner on Sheppey and the A249 at the Grovehurst roundabout.

The closure was put in place for the safety of crews working on the improvements scheme.

Works at the Grovehurst junction
Works at the Grovehurst junction

However, Nick Smith, head of The Sittingbourne School, has expressed his concerns about how the roadworks and traffic delays are affecting his pupils.

He said: “The Sittingbourne School has been facing daily disruption due to the late arrival of buses from the Isle of Sheppey for over a year.

“However, since the roadworks on the bridge from the Island started in mid-October, coupled with various sets of temporary traffic lights in and around Sittingbourne that are now a constant feature, the impact has never been so bad.

“We have hundreds of students arriving late, missing out on valuable learning time every day.

“In addition, we have students on buses for over 90 minutes, which is causing them physical and emotional discomfort.

Nick Smith, head of The Sittingbourne School
Nick Smith, head of The Sittingbourne School

“We are working with the bus company and KCC to find a fast solution that allows all students to be in school on time and learning every day.”

Tim Lambkin, managing director of Travel Masters, a bus company that runs 24 to 25 school buses across Sittingbourne and Sheppey, has said that he is having to fork out an extra £5,000 a week in staff costs due to his bus drivers sitting in rush-hour traffic for so long.

The 56-year-old from Minster explained: “We know the work has to be done but we haven’t had any response from the contractors since we raised our concerns at the Grovehurst meeting in September.

“It is getting worse every day and the Travel Master staff are finding it frustrating.

“It’s costing us £5,000 extra a week in staff costs due to us having to pay the drivers extra for the additional hours that they’re working.

Tim Lambkin, managing director of Travel Masters
Tim Lambkin, managing director of Travel Masters

“People are screaming down the phone at us about our buses being late and not turning up at stops but we can’t change our timetables every day depending on how the roadworks are affecting traffic.

“It is becoming unbearable for all our staff. Drivers on the school routes are doing three hours extra of driving due to the roadworks.

“They’re making us look bad as our buses aren’t on time. This can’t carry on.”

Mr Lambkin explained that the single-lane closure on the Sheppey Crossing is taking 30 minutes alone.

He added: “There has got to be a better way to do this. It is not right.

Travel Masters’ buses
Travel Masters’ buses

“Parents are complaining to us because their children are late to school.

“We had built a good reputation for reliability but that is being tarnished by the roadworks.

“This is the worst that I have ever seen it.

“No thought has been put into the roadworks – it’s absolutely ludicrous.

“It is also impacting the school children every day, on the school runs alone we are losing £4,000 in fuel.

Traffic from the Island towards the Grovehurst junction along the A249 Maidstone-bound. Picture: Clive Hancock
Traffic from the Island towards the Grovehurst junction along the A249 Maidstone-bound. Picture: Clive Hancock

“You couldn’t write it. If this is happening elsewhere it would be sorted but because it is on Sheppey it is not.

“We feel sorry for the kids. They are going to be impacted for more than a year, what is going to happen during the exam period? They can’t be late then!

“Parents are fearing for their children's education.”

It isn’t just businesses and schools that are being affected by the ordeal.

Antonio Amadori, a care support worker covering Swale who lives in Bobbing by the Keycol Hill roundabout, says a 15-minute journey to his clients’ homes is now taking him 45 minutes.

Antonio Amadori, from Bobbing
Antonio Amadori, from Bobbing

The 54-year-old said: “We’re not complaining about the roadworks themselves, we understand they need to be done.

“But it seems like there is an unnecessary lane closure along both sides of the A249.

“Our clients only have three hours with us and if we turn up late they don’t get their full allotted time.

“I’ve been lucky, I haven’t arrived late to anyone I care for, however, I do have to leave earlier in order to make sure that is the case.

“The traffic is really frustrating because when you drive past these lane closures it is like they are closed for nothing – there is no one working there.

An aerial view of the Grovehurst junction
An aerial view of the Grovehurst junction

“It looks like they don’t need to have that much of the road closed.

“I don’t understand why it is down to one lane. Why couldn’t they have just reduced the speed limit instead.”

Antonio, who has lived in the area for 15 years, explained that he had never seen anything like it.

A KCC spokesperson said: “As part of our ongoing work at the A249 Grovehurst Road junction, we have had to introduce traffic management in line with standards set by National Highways to keep workers and the travelling public safe.

“This has meant reducing the Sheppey Crossing to one lane instead of two in the direction heading off the Island.

“This reflects the complexity of the arrangement of the existing slip roads and the constraints of the Sheppey Crossing.

“We recognise this is disruptive and we are actively working with our contractor and National Highways to find a way we can minimise disruption for residents and businesses as far as possible.”

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