'Essential' Kent bridge safety repairs to cause Isle of Sheppey travel disruption this month

Closures will take place on a total of 20 days across June and July
-Credit: (Image: Nilfanion/Wikimedia Commons)

A key Kent route for road and railway travel will see 20 days of disruption across June and July to allow for “essential safety repairs.” Starting this month, Network Rail will be carrying out works on the Kingsferry Bridge between Queenborough and Swale stations on the Isle of Sheppey.

The works will take place on non-consecutive dates across the two months, affecting rail, road, pedestrian, cycle and maritime traffic. Originally built in the 1950’s, the bridge is a key route of travel to and from the Isle of Sheppey, and also serves a vital role in the movement of billions of pounds worth of goods by ship each year.

Kingsferry Bridge uses 40 steel ropes in order to lift and lower the bridge deck, which are now coming to the end of their lifespan having last been replaced in 1995. Recent Magnetic Resonance Testing revealed that some of the ropes had degraded significantly and are in urgent need of replacement.

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Network Rail will therefore work across 20 days to replace all of these ropes this summer to ensure the safety of the busy crossing. Originally, the works were due to take place from June 16 to June 22, though will now be running until late July instead.

A spokesperson for Network Rail explained in an online update: “After discussion with schools in the area there was concern that the increased congestion on the alternative Sheppey Crossing and surrounding road network, when Kingsferry Bridge is closed, could result in significantly longer journeys for secondary school students making their way to exams.

The Kingsferry Bridge connecting the Isle of Sheppey to mainland Kent
The Kingsferry Bridge connecting the Isle of Sheppey to mainland Kent -Credit:Oast House Archive

“Thousands of cyclists and support staff are also due to come onto the island on Friday 21 June and cross Kingsferry Bridge on the morning of Saturday 22 June. While Network Rail could have found an alternative way to get cyclists and support staff across the bridge, thousands of people and cyclists with their bikes trying to use replacement buses to get to the island on Friday 21 June could lead to serious capacity and safety challenges on buses.”

While the bridge is closed to railway travel, buses will replace services between Sheerness, Queenborough, Kemsley and Sittingbourne stations. However, Swale station will not be served when Kingsferry Bridge is closed due to the lengthy diversion route that buses would need to take to serve the station.

Closure dates

Kingsferry Bridge will close to motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and maritime traffic on the following dates:

  • Friday June 7, 10pm to Monday June 10, 5am

  • Friday June 28, 10pm to Sunday July 7, 5am

  • Friday July 12, 10pm to Monday July 15, 5am

  • Friday July 19, 10pm to Sunday July 28, 5am

Last trains will depart the island around midnight on Fridays when the bridge closes. First trains will run from approximately 5.43am on the days when the bridge reopens.

Buses will replace trains between Queenborough and Swale stations on the Isle of Sheppey on the following dates:

  • Saturday June 8 and Sunday June 9

  • Saturday June 29 to Saturday July 6

  • Saturday July 13 and Sunday July 14

  • Saturday July 20 to Saturday July 27

Alongside the full closures, between 9.30am on Wednesday, June 5 and 3pm on Wednesday, June 12, and from Monday, June 24 to Friday, August 2 traffic management will be in place on the bridge to allow construction materials, plant and staff welfare facilities to be delivered. One lane will be open and controlled by traffic lights during this time, excluding the full closures when motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and maritime traffic cannot use the bridge.

The Network Rail spokesperson added: “When the Kingsferry Bridge is closed, motorists are advised to use the Sheppey Crossing but to leave more time to travel as journeys may take longer.” Meanwhile, a 24/7 shuttle bus will be in operation for pedestrians and cyclists to cross the Sheppey Crossing while Kingsferry Bridge is closed.

Pick-up and drop-off points will be on Sheppey Way off the Queenborough Road and Cowstead Corner roundabout (Sheppey side), and alternatively on Sheppey Way by the Old Ferry Road roundabout (mainland side). The shuttle bus will run approximately once an hour, on the hour.

It is advised however that congestion on the wider network may affect departure times and overall journey times. Leisure cyclists are advised to avoid using this shuttle service to allow more room for those cycling to and from work.

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