Kent’s motorways were closed for almost 1,000 hours over a three-month period, as figures reveal the extent of the county’s summer of travel misery. Drivers got stuck in tailbacks caused by crashes, roadworks, broken down vehicles and Operation Stack for almost a third of the summer months. It comes as highways chiefs admit they have barely – if ever – used costly measures installed with the specific purpose of cutting delays during major incidents.
Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request reveal that in July, August and September this year, Kent’s motorways were either fully or partially shut for a total of 938 hours. Parts of the M25 alone were closed for 465 hours, while the M20 was shut for 314 hours, the M2 for 135 hours and the M26 for 24 hours.
Highways England bosses say some of these closures did not have an impact on traffic flow. But many thousands of motorists found themselves trapped in gridlock for several hours – with certain measures designed specifically to prevent lengthy delays going unused.
- A movable barrier installed on the M20 in 2008 at a colossal cost of almost £13 million was used just TWICE before it was removed altogether in 2012.
- Highways England paid an additional £600,000 a year to lease the so-called Quick Moveable Barrier, which allowed a mobile contra-flow system to be set up whenever Operation Stack was implemented. But road chiefs say it was scrapped due to its lack of use.
- Emergency gates installed on the M2’s central reservation near Faversham in 2010 – costing £275,000 – have NEVER been used. They were brought in to allow vehicles to be diverted along the other carriageway after incidents which close the 13-mile stretch between Sittingbourne and Faversham for long periods of time.