Tonbridge braced for more congestion as railway station upgrade starts

The Mead School in Tunbridge Wells gave a professional level performance in the  ISA drama contests

TONBRIDGE town centre is set to endure more traffic chaos as work begins to improve the area around the railway station.

The renovation by Kent County Council [KCC] will begin on July 25 and continue until the autumn, though the most disruptive part will be finished by the end of the school holidays.

The area is already heavily congested as it copes with High Street traffic, commuters using the county’s busiest rail hub and the massed ranks of schoolchildren congregating around the bus stops.

A scheme to widen the pavements outside Lidl supermarket on Quarry Hill Road means buses will now stop in the road where before they used laybys.

But planners insist this will not affect motorists coming from the Pembury Road roundabout – in an area which is regularly beseiged by traffic jams.

Another KCC infrastructure project, to redesign the High Street in 2015-16, has drawn consistent criticism for causing delays for traffic going through the town because of buses stopping on the carriageway instead of the newly built laybys – which are used for delivery lorries.

KCC say the station upgrade is being carried out to encourage people to use ‘environmentally friendly types of travel’.

The bus stop outside Lidl will be extended to fit three buses without blocking traffic. Cllr Richard Long, Tonbridge’s representative at County Hall, was confident that there would be no added disruption from the new format.

He said: ‘The pavement is to be widened to improve safety and convenience for pedestrians, but this does not mean buses will obstruct the carriageway.

‘The north and southbound carriageways will be realigned using space now in the centre of the road so that two-way traffic can use the road even when buses are parked up.

‘We will have to monitor this as, if buses double-park, there would be a problem’

‘But we will have to monitor this as, if buses double-park, there would be a problem. The bus companies have been asked to ensure this does not happen.’

Cllr Long suggested the plan would alleviate congestion, saying: ‘If anything the new design, by making the road more pedestrian friendly, may begin to have the opposite effect as more people may be willing to walk and use public transport.’

He added: ‘I am realistic and do not expect any dramatic effect, but it must be helpful generally if we make road conditions better and safer for pedestrians, which includes pedestrians who have arrived in Tonbridge by bus and train.

‘Many of these, of course, are schoolchildren, which is why it is so important to improve safety around the station.’

It is not only drivers who will be affected by the changes. Fran Long, Chair of the Tonbridge Bicycle Users Group [TBUG], warned: ‘We now need to ensure that there are safe cycle routes.

‘TBUG are particularly concerned by the proposal to move buses out of the layby at Lidl on to the main carriageway.

‘This will force cyclists to swerve out into traffic around the bus, or overtake on the left where passengers are getting on and off – neither of which is safe or sensible. We hope KCC will reconsider this option.’

Kent Highways told the Times: ‘It was the best that could be achieved with the space available.

‘But if more than three buses turn up at once, there is a chance they will back up towards the roundabout, which could cause some congestion.

‘This was highlighted to the Tonbridge Joint Transportation Board, who subsequently advised to progress with this version of the scheme.’

Other changes to the station approach include new signalled crossings on Waterloo Road and Quarry Hill Road, and new protective bollards around the station entrance.

The work will be carried out on weekdays from 7.30am-5pm. Traffic lights will be in operation from 7am-7pm. A temporary bus stop will move up and down Quarry Hill Road.

There will be some out-of-hours work which may require temporary diversions. No loud machinery will be used during these times.

The upgrade, funded by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, will cost £500,000.

KCC said: ‘Tonbridge is the busiest train station in Kent. We need to improve access so residents can continue to access the station safely.’

Share this article

Recommended articles


Please enter a search term below.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter