MPs demand action after deaths at A21 black-spot

Kentish Pip Wild Summer Sparkling Elderflower Cider

The area on the recently dualled section between Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells at Castle Hill has seen 12 accidents since last December.

Two drivers were killed, including Subhash Pai, a 38-year-old dentist from Tunbridge Wells, who died when his vehicle left the carriageway in July.

On several occasions cars have crashed through a wooden fence and across an NMU (non-motorised user) cycle path that runs adjacent to the road.

Highways England is responsible for the stretch of road, and the MP for Tonbridge & Malling Tom Tugendhat and his colleagues Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells) and Amber Rudd (Hastings & Rye) wrote to its chief executive Jim O’Sullivan last week.

The MPs said they had been ‘approached by many residents’  and ‘families of those who have lost their lives due to accidents there’.

They wrote: “You will see that it is clear that improvements are needed here in order to prevent more tragic accidents.”

They call on Highways England to consider recommendations made by the coroner’s report into one of the fatalities.

A coroner at one of the inquests found that a crash barrier would reduce the risk of a car leaving the road and so avoid collisions with cyclists and other users of the path.

Another issue that has been identified is standing water on the road surface. This is believed to be caused by poor drainage and it is claimed that cars are ‘aqua-planing’, or losing traction, when there is heavy rain.

There is a sign to warn northbound drivers but the coroner noted the lack of a ‘variable message system’ to tell them to slow down in adverse weather conditions.

And he asked if drainage at the location could be ‘reviewed and improved’ to reduce the volume of water running across the carriageway.

Highways England has already said it has installed sandbags and the original contractor has been commissioned to carry out remedial work.

The MPs also noted that the driver was struck by a horizontal Arris rail on the wooden fence, which was ‘at head height for the seated driver and penetrated into the car upon impact’.

Highways England route sponsor Peter Phillips met a group of councillors, experts and cycling representatives last month.


Attending the meeting were Kent County Council’s [KCC] Tonbridge representatives Richard Long and Michael Payne, KCC Head of Transportation Tim Reed and members of the Tonbridge Bicycle User Group [TBUG].

Cllr Payne is also Vice-Chairman of KCC’s Environment & Transport Cabinet Committee and of Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council’s Joint Transportation Board. He told the Times: “Various concerns  were discussed but I am not yet in a position to comment further.”

He and Cllr Long told Mr Phillips that Highways England had been slow to respond to the issues – including the lack of a safety barrier – and had not stated when they would be sorted out.

The government-owned company is carrying out a Stage 4 safety audit which will be completed by the end of the year.

Mr Phillips said that in the original design of the dualling it had been decided that no barrier was needed but Highways England was revising that assessment.

He added that the fencing had been provided for the safety of drivers who might become confused with cycle lights from NMU users.

He explained that the drainage problem was caused by a spring that had gone unnoticed at the time of the original geological surveys.

Share this article

Recommended articles


Please enter a search term below.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter