Expect 'chaos' and 'gridlock' during Kent roadworks and bridge closure warns bus company

A family-owned bus firm in Kent has warned of "chaos" on the roads and desperately late services caused by imminent - and simultaneous - road and repair works. Chalkwell Coach Hire in Swale operates several all-day bus services across Sittingbourne and Sheppey, with one key route the 334, serving Sittingbourne, Iwade, Minster and Sheerness.

Its managing director Roland Eglinton said the slip road closures at the A249 Grovehurst Road junction along with the closures of nearby Kingsferry Bridge about to happen, would cause gridlock and create havoc for bus services.

And the company in Church Road in Sittingbourne has "limited resources to throw at these problems" to lessen the impact on customers. But getting children to school would be its "absolute priority", he said.

Mr Eglinton said: "With these closures happening at the same time, buses will not be able to travel north from Iwade towards Sheppey, as both routes will be unusable. The only alternative will be for buses to loop back to the Bobbing junction before heading north again. Not only does this have a massive time penalty for our customers, the increase in traffic at this point is likely to cause gridlock."

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

Read more: Kent General Election YouGov survey shows expected results in every seat if vote was today

Mr Eglinton said there was "potential" that people in Iwade would not have easy access to a bus. He said the company had already endured much disruption on the roads, including with the "frequent closures" of the A2 at Key Street and "traffic lights springing up all over the place".

He said the effects on bus services of these roadworks were "considerable" with services running late and buses not in the right place at the right time.

As KentLive previously reported, Network Rail will be carrying out works on the Kingsferry Bridge between Queenborough and Swale stations on the Isle of Sheppey.

The works will affect rail, road, pedestrian, cycle and maritime traffic. The bridge is a key route of travel to and from the Isle of Sheppey. Kingsferry Bridge uses 40 steel ropes in order to lift and lower the bridge deck, which are now coming to the end of their life span having last been replaced in 1995.

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

The first closure date is expected on Friday (June 7), 10pm to Monday June 10, 5am. For more dates, see at end of article. And Kent County Council is carrying out improvements at the A249 Grovehurst Road and interchange junction, to the west of Sittingbourne.

These will be replaced by a two-bridge flyover. The council said the changes were driven by the need to improve safety due to congestion. It will increase capacity on the roads and provide the infrastructure needed for housing plans for 4,628 homes on the A249 corridor from the junction with the M2 to the Isle of Sheppey, said the council.

But Mr Eglinton said it was drivers and other staff who bore the brunt of anger at the disruption caused by such works. He said: "Sometimes it is hard for people to understand that a bus is running late because of a road closure on the other side of town, but that is the reality."

"Our customers have had to tolerate a lot lately, and it is our staff who unfortunately get it in the neck. We are a local family business, which means we are in touch with what is going on in our area. The downside of this is that we have limited resources of our own to throw at these problems in order to soften the impact."

The company's "absolute priority" was to get children to school. To help this, all morning school bus journeys going into Sittingbourne and Sheerness will run 15 minutes earlier. Kent Travel Saver and 16+ passes are accepted.

Mr Eglinton said: "We are working with Network Rail and other stakeholders to try and find solutions, however time is running out with the first closures set to happen in early June."

Customers are advised to check www.chalkwell.co.uk and our social media channels for updates over the coming days. Customers can use our buses for just £2 per single journey, under the national fare cap scheme.

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

Never get stuck in a jam again with our FREE traffic and travel email for KentLive readers. Find out more here.