£102m plan to improve junction 5 of M2 unveiled by Highways England
PUBLISHED: 14:34 06 September 2017
The motorway links London with Rochester and Faversham and the Port of Dover
A proposed £102m solution to easing congestion at one of Britain’s biggest accident hotspots has been unveiled this week.
Highways England opened a consultation into plans to improve the Stockbury roundabout, which links junction 5 of the M2 and the A249 between Maidstone and Sittingbourne, with the aim of starting work as soon as 2020.
A dozen options, including an A249 flyover above the roundabout, and a plan to replace the roundabout with a three-tier interchange, were initially considered by roads chiefs but scrapped because they decided they would not have a sufficient effect on reducing congestion, or they were too expensive.
Instead, a fresh consideration, known as Option 12A, has been brought forward for the public to feed back on.
This option will see the roundabout englarged to provide a new through route for cars using the A249, new dedicated left-turn lanes for traffic travelling from the A249 southbound to the M2 London-bound and from the A249 northbound to the M2 coast-bound.
A new single lane slip road from the M2 coast-bound to the A249 northbound which would avoid the roundabout altogether is also proposed, while the existing connection from the Maidstone Road to the roundabout would be closed, with Maidstone Road re-routed to link with Oad Street.
Additionally, the existing junction of Oad Street with the A249 would be closed and a new link would be provided south of the existing Oad Street to connect directly with the roundabout, while the Honeycrock Hill junction with the A249 would also be closed for safety reasons.
Bosses say all movements through the junction would be controlled by traffic lights, with the exception of the Oad Street ‘arm’, which would have ‘give way’ markings at the roundabout entry, and that the proposal also includes some measures to improve facilities for people walking to the bus stops and connecting to local public footpaths.
At a proposed cost of £102m, it is technically over-budget, but highways chiefs insist efficiencies will be found and they expect the figure to fall within the £50m to £100m bracket outlined by the government.
Senior project manager Neil Andrew told Kent News: “We’ve gone through the options looking at the high level objectives that were set – that is looking towards reducing the number of incidents because this junction is identified within the top 50 national casualty locations, with 111 personal injury accidents between 2011 and 2015.
“We can see it’s a very high accident location for sideswipes as people are moving around the roundabout and also as people are approaching on the A249.
“It’s also looked towards journey times so trying to reduce the congestion experienced on both the approaches from the M2 and A249.
“The scheme we’re developing is also aimed at keeping traffic on the strategic road network.
“A large number of individuals at the moment are using rural roads to get around the junction and causing subsequent congestion and anxiety for residents and local communities.”
“The commitment made to government is to begin work on this junction by March 2020 and at the moment that is what our current programme is showing.
“In terms of an actual construction project, for a scheme of this nature, we’re looking at 18 to 24 months so we’re anticipating this being open to traffic by summer 2022.”
Before then, however, there is a lengthy, complicated process of public engagement, as has been seen elsewhere in the county with other major roads projects such as the Lower Thames Crossing and the proposed lorry park designed to ease the problems caused by Operation Stack.
The consultation runs until Tuesday, October 17, where people can attend a series of exhibition events, and then have their say on the plans using either the paper questionnaire or the online version.
A public consultation report to document feedback will then be produced in December before a preferred route announcement is made early next year.
A further, statutory consultation will then follow in the summer, with bosses hoping the project will be classed as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).
After that, a development consent order (DCO) application would need to be submitted, most likely during the winter of 2018, before the planning inspectorate evaluates the scheme and application the following year.
Between 2019 and 2020, a recommendation will be given to the government and the transport secretary will then make the final decision, after which construction can commence.
However, Labour councillor Roger Truelove said the proposals weren’t adequate and that the option of a flyover, which Highways England claims would have cost some £184m, was required to solve the problems.
“We already have tremendous tailbacks on the A249 related to traffic lights at the Stockbury roundabout,” he said.
“This plan maintains traffic lights and so I can’t see it helping. All they are providing is a slip road for traffic coming from London that wants to use the roundabout.
“It seems that it is an invitation for all traffic to use Maidstone Road and Oad Street and it will hit the villages.
“It will slightly alleviate the current problem but with developments in the local plan it just isn’t adequate.”
Concerns have also been raised over the impact on traffic approaching the Kent Showground, further down the A249 in Detling, for popular events such as the County Show.
Indeed there were severe delays for visitors at this summer’s show back in June following a smash on the M20 but Mr Andrew insisted it was too soon to draw up plans for how that will work during construction.
“We will be continuing close engagement with key stakeholders, whether that’s the Showground, major operators or freight to work on our construction management plans,” he said.
“One of the key things we do when we commence and undertake this is try to minimise the disruption caused to the road users, and especially key events such as those utilising the Showground which are key for the regional economy.
“We will do whatever we can to minimise the impact of our construction on such events as that.
“But it’s at such an early stage at the moment it wouldn’t make sense to start looking at the construction until we’ve gone through the process of engaging and getting the government’s support on the option that we are planning on taking forward.
“There could be tweaks following the public consultation so we can’t start finalising plans on how we’re going to set about delivering this complex infrastructure.”
Public exhibitions will be held at the following dates, times and locations:
Stockbury Memorial Hall (Cricket Club) between 2pm and 8pm on Monday, September 11
Forum Shopping Centre, Sittingbourne, between 10am and 2pm on Saturday, September 16
Sheppey Gateway, Sheerness, between 2pm and 8pm on Wednesday, September 20
The Mall Maidstone, between 9am and 5pm on Saturday, September 23
More information can be found at http://roads.highways.gov.uk/projects/m2-junction-5-improvements/