Highways bosses should take immediate action to reopen the M20 and abandon the deadly Smart Motorway scheme. I made the calls after Operation Brock was implemented again earlier today.
The M20 has a reduced speed limit in several other sections because of roadworks between Junctions 3 and 5 to install a Smart Motorway, and near Junction 10 to complete Junction 10A. Highways England boss Jim O’Sullivan said last week Smart Motorways were "too complicated" and announced it was putting a hold on new schemes. At least five people are said to have died on them elsewhere in the UK.
I have urged ministers to end months of frustration for local drivers. The contraflow system is there in case of a no-deal Brexit. Yet it’s perfectly obvious to all that opposition parties have subverted our leaving the EU at the end of October.
We also need to have a serious look at other projects on the M20. Smart motorways are not smart. They are a deadly attempt to squeeze more lanes into the same width of road. Meanwhile the Junction 10A project is a public advert for reform of road-building. The works are hugely disruptive and have taken far too long. For me it highlights why we should bring back the rent-a-lane policy of the Thatcher years.
Lane rental involves charging contractors for using the highways, thereby incentivising them to finish on time. Kent County Council and Transport for London are the only authorities to operate the scheme, but not Highways England which manages the country’s motorways. Junction 10A was scheduled for completion in September. Highways bosses have since confirmed it would not be open by the mooted Brexit deadline of October 31 – and are yet to provide a new date.
We cannot tolerate projects dragging on endlessly with but a few workers ever visibly on site. And our roads don’t need these half-baked schemes. They need proper investment in extra capacity. That’s why I was so pleased ministers agreed to my demands to provide funding to widen the A2. We should use the savings from axing the deadly motorway schemes to get on with more much-needed projects.
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