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Kent County Council
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Kent ME14 1XQ

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Friday 16 May 2008

I joined MPs from Kent and East Sussex this week in a meeting with Transport Minister Tom Harris.

We were raising our concerns over the rising cost of the vital improvement works to the A21.

The dualling of the A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury has been repeatedly delayed over the past 20 years.

The Highways Agency are now saying the cost of the scheme has spiralled from £64million to £112million leaving open the very real possibility of the improvements being delayed beyond the promised 2010/2011 start date.

It is incomprehensible that the cost could have risen so steeply. Our analysis shows that the scheme should cost between £70m and £80m.

The Nicholls report commissioned by the Department for Transport recommends that these estimates should be challenged. I sincerely hope they are.

Further delays are completely unacceptable. This stretch of the A21 is completely inadequate for the 46,500 vehicles a day that use it.

And with the new hospital at Pembury under construction, and the decision to move hospital services from Maidstone to Pembury, there is even more urgency placed on these works.

The minister listened to our concerns and reassured us that these improvements remain a priority. Whether there is enough money in the pot to pay for them is another matter.

He has promised to investigate the costs and its implications.

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