Rob Bird, Member for Maidstone Central, asked Matthew Balfour, Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, the following question:
"Up to now the works on the Maidstone Bridges Gyratory have progressed well and traffic flows have generally been well managed. Unfortunately, on Saturday 24th September scores of motorists spe nt 2 hours queuing to get out of the Fremlin Walk car-park because of congestion caused by the roadworks. We have recently learnt that this situation was exacerbated and prolonged because the Kent Highways Management Centre at Aylesford was not manned at week-ends.
Will the Cabinet Member for Environment & Transport please provide assurance that measures are now in place to ensure that such an unacceptable situation does not happen again here in Maidstone nor elsewhere in the county?"
Yes, I can provide assurances and I apologise to those caught up in the jams, but let me explain. The Maidstone Bridges gyratory started in June 2016 and is being phased to ensure that the majority of lanes are available during the peak periods. Construction work at weekends has been limited to minimise disruption.
On Saturday 24th September, no works were being carried out on the scheme and the traffic management arrangements were no different than on previous weekends. However as Mr Bird rightly says, motorists experienced delays in getting in and out of Fremlins Walk car park.
Officers quickly liaised with the Fremlins Management and concluded that a combination of factors caused the congestion which were:
Mitigating measures were agreed and put in place including for the immediate fix of the traffic signals, Highway Management Centre is to be staffed until completion of the project, and warning signs erected advising motorists not to block yellow boxes.
The site team continue to work with Fremlins Walk management in relation to programme and traffic management alterations. We have not received any further reports of congestion at weekends.
Maidstone Bridges project will be substantially completed by mid-November and we will see the new north bound lanes fully operational, which will be a huge benefit for the town.