At last – Government is pledging action on A21
PINCH yourselves – after 20 years of campaigning, the Government has pledged to widen the gridlocked A21.
The Department of Transport this week said work would start in 2015 on dualling the single-lane section between Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge.
Tuesday's shock announcement by roads minister Mike Penning was greeted with joy in East Sussex.
Carl Maynard, the county council's head of highways matters, said: "We're absolutely delighted that it's come forward at last. A21 improvements are something politicians in Kent and East Sussex have been campaigning on for years."
The announcement came just hours after Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark met with Mr Penning to argue the case for fast-tracking a public inquiry, which must be held before building work can start.
But Mr Penning stunned campaigners by giving the green light to the entire scheme – at a cost of £107 million.
It represented a stunning success for the Courier's A21 for 2016 campaign, which was pressing for the Government to include the project in the next round of roads funding after it was axed as part of budget cuts when the coalition came to power in 2010.
The 2015 start date is a year earlier than had been hoped for.
Mr Maynard said the widened A21 – coupled with a new Bexhill-Hastings relief road – would prompt celebrations among businesses across East Sussex.
"It's like all our Christmases have come early," he said.
"The A21 has been known as the snail trail for years but we all use it to connect Kent and London to the south coast.
"This will allow for real regeneration."
Kent County Council leader Paul Carter described the news as "fantastic", adding: "Completion of the scheme will be an enormous boost to the local economy."
Tunbridge Wells MP Mr Clark, who has backed the Courier's A21 for 2016 campaign, said: "As we all know, the whole community, including the Courier, has been absolutely unified in this campaign and it is great to have achieved this breakthrough."
The scheme topped a list of six major road improvement schemes the Government approved on Tuesday.
It means the single-carriage stretch between Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells will be widened once funding becomes available after the next spending review in 2015 – bringing an end to the daily traffic chaos caused by the notorious bottleneck.
The inquiry is expected to be started within the next few months, according to Mr Clark.
The Department for Transport said work would cost £107 million – lower than a previous price tag of £125 million.