Smartening Up The M20

Works on the M20 continue, with 50mph speed limit in place.  (pic: Graham Aylard-Poxon/KGAM)


The works have been ongoing for a while now on the M20 between Junctions 3 and 5 (M26 / Maidstone). The 6.5 Mile section of road is being converted to a Smart Motorway and the work will continue until March 2020. Why does it taking so long? Isn’t it just turning the solid line white line that separates the hard should into a dotted white line?

Converting any type of motorway to a Smart Motorway involves far more work than meets the eye. Taking a look at the Highways England website gives us a clue as to what’s involved. Firstly it’s costing £92 million pounds. This alone means that the work is more than repainting white lines. With that sort of money involved, the work to be carried out is extensive. Since it’s a major route between Dover and London and the Southern sections of the M25 it’s a major link to Europe, so it’s been deemed worth it - regardless of the Brexit situation. Consultation work was needed before the first traffic cone was even introduced to the M20. Cost of the work v's cost and savings to the economy must be calculated. Then public consultation. Consultation with emergency services and then the environmental impact surveys before, during and after the works.

Then the preparation work. A site for the building team. Environmental work alongside the motorway. Removal of various objects and obstruction must be done. Even to a point that if a rare birds nest is found, work stops. The nest is relocated which has its risks to the wildlife or the work doesn't resume until the chicks have flown the nest for example.

Then the cones goes in, and misery for the motorists really starts. Lane restrictions and speed limits apply and the main work starts.

July 2018 - March 2019 Works within the Motorway verge. This consists of replacement drainage systems to take the extra traffic and extra road surface. The fact that the central reservation will be turned to concrete and not a grass verge means the rain water must disperse safely. New lighting goes in. Cabling for Cameras and electronic equipment needs to be installed. Building five new emergency refuge areas. Installing new gantries and installing low noise fencing near residential areas.

March 2019 to December 2019 - Then the construction moves to the centre. Removal of metal barriers and replacing them with stronger concrete ones, The concrete barrier are safer and stops vehicle crossover accidents, more so with HGV’s. Extra drainage in the centre may be needed, depending on the camber of the road. The completion of overhead gantries. Resurancing work.

Then once that lot is done. Then the white paint goes down for the fourth lanes. So to make a three lane motorway to four, it turns out a lot of work is needed - and a lot of money too. And all that work doesn’t happen overnight.

Written by Graham Aylard-Poxon. National Observer and social media coordinator for the Kent Group of Advanced Motorists.


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