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Plea for car recovery service on Sheppey Crossing

Campaigners have called for a rapid recovery service to be introduced on one of the county's busiest bridges.

The call follows delays on Monday when motorists were left fuming after a broken down car closed the Sheppey Crossing - again.

Police closed off the Sheppey-bound carriageway of the Sheppey Crossing again earlier this week. Picture: Rebecca Breiner
Police closed off the Sheppey-bound carriageway of the Sheppey Crossing again earlier this week. Picture: Rebecca Breiner

Police shut the Sheppey-bound carriageway around 4pm which led to queues at the start of the commuter rush.

It was at least the sixth time the bridge linking the Island to the mainland has been closed in recent months.

Ty Bland, chairman of Associated Sheppey Bikers, said: "Either a system of rapid vehicle recovery needs to be implemented like at the Dartford Crossing or the police must manage the traffic chaos they are causing."

Vehicles were diverted across the old Kingsferry Bridge only to discover the Sheppey-bound side was blocked by a giant emergency electricity generator which has been providing power to the bridge for the past few weeks.

Mr Bland has also written to Gordon Henderson, MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, demanding to know why police closed the crossing instead of only one lane.

Ty Bland, chairman of Associated Sheppey Bikers
Ty Bland, chairman of Associated Sheppey Bikers

He said: "They saw fit to close the Sheppey Crossing, diverting all traffic across the old bridge which for weeks has had a mobile generator blocking the Sheppey-bound carriageway.

"Traffic priority is off-island and there are no traffic controls in place other than signs.

"This created chaos on all routes towards the Island which became gridlocked.

"Officers then left everyone to their own devices instead of managing the traffic problem they had created."

He added: "While I understand the issues of safety, they make more problems by creating frustration.

Police divert island-bound traffic off the A249 before the Sheppey Crossing. Stock picture
Police divert island-bound traffic off the A249 before the Sheppey Crossing. Stock picture

"Shortly after the bridge was reopened there was an accident on the approach to the first big roundabout at Cowstead Corner in the outside lane.

"Somebody probably wasn't paying attention but it all comes back to the constant frustration with the volume of traffic."

Thousands of motorists were caught in the queue on the A249 which at one point stretched back five miles to Key Street roundabout.

It is not known why so many cars break down on the crossing but some believe it is to do with the steepness of the design which can affect fuel feeds to the engine, especially if drivers have near-to-empty tanks.

Islander Mandy Parsons said: "Closure rather than reduction to a single lane is standard practice for safety reasons because of the flawed design of the bridge which has no hard shoulder.

"These episodes don't just happen now and again. They happen weekly. The fact the bridge is closed for something as benign as a broken down car should be reason enough to refuse any more housing on the Island until a viable solution is found."

Police defended their decision to close the crossing.

A spokesman said: "Decisions around road closures are dependent on a number of different and often variable factors such as the layouts of roads, visibility, or weather conditions.

"When these different factors are taken into consideration, temporary road closures are sometimes put into place rather than lane closures so broken down vehicles can be recovered safely."

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Read more: All the latest news from the Isle of Sheppey


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