Roger Gough

Friday, 9 April 2021

Pilgrims Way East: closure should end tomorrow

The urgent closure of Pilgrim’s Way East today is the result of emergency works carried out by South East Water to deal with a dangerous lid in the road. The road is closed from outside number 34, with Row Dow identified as the diversion route.

The closure was originally projected to be for four days, but KCC Streetworks team have now confirmed that it will be completed tomorrow (Saturday 10 April). There is not a precise time for when the road will be reinstated, cleared and reopened but it will be by close of play tomorrow and may be earlier.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Franks Lane works to start on Friday

Kent Highways will start resurfacing work in Franks Lane, Horton Kirby, on Friday (9 April); this is expected to take two days, requiring a road closure. Works will take place between 7am and 7pm. The entire road, from the junction with the A225 to Eglantine Lane, will be treated with micro asphalt, a quick setting method suitable for roads which are structurally solid but have quite a lot of surface wear.

These works will provide the opportunity to undertake road marking improvements, part of measures to improve clarity and visibility for drivers approaching the bridge, with consequent benefits for pedestrians too. These will comprise additional and some refreshed SLOW markings, along with edge of carriageway markings. 

At a later date - probably in the second half of April - road signage will be added, indicating road narrowing and pedestrians in the road. The existing chevrons - which have frequently been removed, and which the Parish Council has long raised as a concern with me - will be taken down and signs indicating a bridge parapet will be placed on new posts in the verge in front of the bridge. They should be much more durable.

It had originally been hoped that all the works could be done in one go and with one road closure; in practice, it wasn’t possible to dovetail them all, but hopefully we should see significant improvements to Franks Lane, in terms both of the road surface and of the approach to the bridge, by the end of the month.

Kent Highways is also, at the request of the Parish Council, carrying out some repairs to the footway at the entrance to Heathside Park in Horton Road, South Darenth. These should be carried out on Thursday 8 April.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Details of new Go coach services and Demand Responsive Go2 service

From Monday 12 April, Go Coach will be introducing a range of new or reinstated services. Some of this builds on the company’s demand responsive Go2 service, which was introduced last year. All the proposals have been developed through close work with KCC. 

In terms of traditional, fixed line services, the following routes will be reinstated at the frequency levels seen prior to the third lockdown in January:

 Route 1 – Westerham - Sevenoaks

Route 2 –Swanley- Sevenoaks

Route 5 – Tonbridge - Sevenoaks

Route 6 – Kemsing – Sevenoaks

For residents of Farningham, Eynsford, Otford and Shoreham, Route 2 will be of most interest, and Route 6 for residents of Kemsing and Seal. 

The intra-Sevenoaks Route 8 will be restored to pre-Covid frequencies. You can find the Go Coach timetables here.

The Go2 service will be expanded to cover some of the areas served by the Sevenoaks taxi bus (one of the schemes that came out of KCC’s ‘Big Conversation’ on rural bus services). This service had limited patronage and ceased to operate during the pandemic. Now residents of Stanstead, Fairseat, West Kingsdown and East Hill will be able to access the Go2 service 6 days a week (Monday – Saturday) between the hours of 0800-1800.

Go2 will also replace part of the 429 Sunday service. The 429 (West Kingsdown to Dartford, including a stop at White Post Corner in Farningham) will reduce from an hourly to two hourly service Monday-Friday (and continue as such on Saturday). The Sunday service, which has been subsidised over a number of years by grants from KCC Members (I am one of them), will cease. However, Go2 will be expanded to  cover an area including West Kingsdown, Swanley, down the Darent Valley and central Sevenoaks. (The route beyond Swanley is covered by alternative commercial services).

In Sevenoaks, there will be a new set of flat fares for non-school journeys of £2.50, £5.00 for all day travel and £1.50 for 5-19 year olds. On Go2, ENCTS or disabled pass holders will not have free travel as on fixed line buses, but will be reduced to 50% of the standard adult fares with companion travellers paying a fare of only £1.00 per journey. 

These changes represent a significant step back towards service resumption by Go, while building on the very successful development of Go2. It’s worth noting that demand responsive bus services had a significant part in the government’s National Bus Strategy, to which KCC will soon be responding.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Half a million symptom-free Covid tests in Kent

Kent County Council’s Director of Public Health, Andrew Scott-Clark, has confirmed that half a million symptom free tests have been carried out in Kent. This is a remarkable outcome from a standing start just before Christmas. At that time, I visited (and took a test) at one of the two sites that were opening (on the Isle of Sheppey and in Thanet). Since then, a network of sites has been developed across the county. In the early stages in particular, we had vital support from military logistics teams, although the network has now been self-sustaining for some time.

The indications are that Kent amounts to more than ten per cent of symptom-free tests carried out across the country, and our neighbours and colleagues in Medway (whose testing regime started around ten days before Kent’s) also have very high incidence relative to their population. 

This is a remarkable achievement by the team led by Andrew Scott-Clark, and reflects the authority’s determination that the county would make its way out of the severe restrictions instituted before Christmas through a combination of symptom-free testing, local contact tracing and effective communication and enforcement. Symptom-free testing is set to continue until at least the end of June, and remains a vital tool in the effort to keep our infection rates low, especially as restrictions start to ease.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

JTB approves Otford and Eynsford schemes

Schemes in Otford and Eynsford were approved at last night’s Sevenoaks Joint Transportation Board.

For Otford, 20mph schemes were approved for High Street, Pilgrims Way East (as far as the junction with Beechy Leas Road). Row Dow (257 metres up from the junction with PWE), Sevenoaks Road (to 20 metres south of the roundabout) and Station Road (as far as Colets Orchard). As local County Councillor, I spoke in favour of approval, as did District and Parish Councillor Irene Roy, who has led the development of the wider Otford Traffic Management schemes. I am supporting the overall plans with £5,000 from my Combined Member Grant. The scheme was approved unanimously. 

The Eynsford scheme is for no loading/ unloading restrictions in parts of Riverside to supplement the double yellow lines and enhance enforcement there (on the basis that vehicles can be moved pretty quickly before Sevenoaks DC enforcement officers can gather evidence and issue a penalty notice). The scheme will be taken forward by Sevenoaks District Council and was discussed with and supported by the Parish Council. I am contributing £737 from my Grant. This scheme did not encounter any objections during consultation and was approved.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Pothole blitz gets under way

Last week Kent County Council launched its latest ‘pothole blitz’ - the find and fix campaign launched each spring, and which I have often posted about. The new programme has some £10 million committed to it. As the KCC media release makes clear, it goes alongside other programmes such as major resurfacing works.

A longer term asset management plan is being prepared which will set the course for the coming years and will set out ways in which the highways programme (including not just roads but elements such as structures and drainage) can be put on the most sustainable footing. This remains one of my big preoccupations as Leader of the Council: to find the best way to support and develop a historically underfunded area (not just in Kent but across the country) which is nonetheless the most visible and universal service which the County Council provides.

Monday, 1 March 2021

Vision Zero: two weeks left to comment

There are still two weeks left to comment on KCC‘s Vision Zero strategy for road safety; the consultation, launched on 26 January, closes just before midnight on 15 March. 

Vision Zero aims to achieve a major reduction - to, or very close to zero - in deaths on Kent’s roads by 2050. Its underlying philosophy is to recognise that human error will always happen, but to find ways to reduce its consequences, either in terms of accidents or in terms of their most serious consequences. A major strand in Vision Zero is a renewed emphasis on community engagement, recognising that community concerns about matters such as sense of danger and reduced quality of life should be taken into account in assessing road safety measures. This represents a more flexible approach than the current focus on deaths and serious injuries, even though that will undoubtedly remain a significant factor in any assessments.

You can find details of the consultation, and more detail about Vision Zero, here. The strategy’s emphasis on a systematic approach, and on close work with local residents and communities should be very welcome.