A21 closure starts to bite and adds up to an hour on journeys

A21 closure starts to bite and adds up to an hour on journeys
Congestion on the A21

Commuters from Tunbridge Wells trying to go north towards London have been faced with an additional hour to their daily journey.

Queues have been building during rush hour through Southborough, with some motorists complaining of delays of up to 60 minutes just to get into Tonbridge.

The A21 has been closed for necessary repairs to the Medway viaduct, which runs over Haysden Country Park, as well as the Manor Farm subway running under the road.

The road closed on Friday [February 14] at 10pm and is scheduled to reopen at 6am on Monday [February 24]. Highways England say they hope conducting the works during half term will lead to less disruption, as there should be less traffic in the morning.

The Tunbridge Wells exit is closed, with southbound traffic being forced off the A21 at Sevenoaks, and northbound traffic from the Vauxhall Interchange at the top of Tonbridge.

Commuter Toby Uffindell-Phillips, who works as a web app developer in Tunbridge Wells, says his usual 20 minute journey to Sevenoaks has more than tripled.

“On Monday, it took me an hour just to go from Southborough to Tonbridge, then I had the rest of the journey. The situation wasn’t helped with both the roads to Leigh and Penshurst closed to flooding,” he said.

He continued: “Going into work hasn’t been as bad, with my usual 20-minute journey from Sevenoaks taking 40 minutes, but for the rest of the week I’m going to leave work early as I don’t want to waste an hour every night just getting through Tonbridge.”

Last week, drivers got an insight as to what this week’s closure would be like when an accident and flooding on the carriageway near to Pembury, shut the A21 temporarily for a number of hours, which resulted in traffic chaos.

Heavy rain had caused flooding on the carriageways of the A21 and two vehicles collided just before 6am last Thursday [February 13] near to the Pembury turn off.

The accident forced the closure of both carriageways between Pembury and the Kipping’s Cross Roundabout.

While nobody was injured, it took until mid-morning before the stricken vehicles could be removed and the road re-opened.

The road closure caused long tailbacks from Pembury as traffic had to be diverted through Five Oak Green and was snarled up all the way through Tunbridge Wells.

North Farm and High Brooms remained in gridlock all morning, and congestion was reported as far away as Wadhurst in East Sussex and along the Eridge Road.

Many commuters took to social media to complain about the traffic issues, with some admitting to turning around their vehicles and abandoning their journeys to work.

Some 35,000 vehicles use the A21 each day, and this week this traffic has been diverted through Hildenborough, Bordyke, Cannon Lane and the Vauxhall roundabout.

During the scheduled closure, motorists are meant to follow diversion signs around Tonbridge, which takes them through the industrial estate, but some drivers have been entering Tonbridge High Street via Pembury Road, causing even more congestion.

This closure of the A21 has concerned Tonbridge MP, Tom Tugendhat, who has written to the Chief Executive of Highways England, about the routes being taken by motorists.

In his letter, Mr Tugendhat wrote: “We would welcome your reassurance in public about the additional resources which you will be taking to ensure that Tonbridge, Hildenborough and surrounding villages do not suffer as a result of the closure.

“The A21 is a strategic route and where the road is shut, strategic traffic needs to be encouraged to use alternatives such as the M20 and M23 where possible. It is totally inappropriate for strategic traffic to use the B245 [through Hildenborough], A227 [Shipbourne Road] and A26 [Cannon Lane] in urban areas as a substitute.

“The evening and weekend events and entertainment in Tonbridge are significant, and we are concerned at the loss of revenue for businesses across the town at such short notice.”

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