I have received a large number of communications from local residents about the proposed improvement works at Junction 8 of the M25 at Reigate Hill, sponsored by Highways England, and scheduled to start in January 2020. This improvement scheme has raised a number of concerns from residents, and local businesses, largely due to the disruption such extended roadworks are likely to cause to local traffic.
In response to these concerns, I recently wrote to the CEO of Highways England requesting a meeting of key interested parties to discuss the project in more detail.
Surrey County Council subsequently convened this meeting on Friday 4 October along with representatives from Highways England and its contractors, as well as Surrey County Council itself, to discuss the implications of the J8 Improvement Scheme.
As a result of this meeting, I am persuaded that this disruptive road project is not simply a case of making improvements for the sake of it. There are some serious maintenance and repairs that are essential and urgent on the J8 roundabout, including replacement of a waterproof membrane, twenty-year-old traffic signals that are in danger of failing completely as well as their technology being hopelessly out of date. There is also an urgent need to replace and increase the capacity of ducting for utilities that cross the M25 under the bridge, and bridge joints need replacing.
It is going to be a difficult period for motorists as the works are expected to last nearly a year. This will include traffic lanes and occasional closure of the bridge. However, after the work is done, we are expecting over ten years without any need to maintain or upgrade this section of road. The scheme is necessary and efforts will continue to minimize the inevitable inconvenience and congestion.
Here are some key facts concerning the project:
- Major works are urgently needed to the bridge over the motorway as the structures waterproof membrane is now defunct and this is causing damage to the concrete.
- The signaling equipment is now 20 years old and in danger of failing completely.
- The ‘pavement’ (road surface) is now breaking up beyond just simple re-surfacing.
- The current ‘three’ lanes across the bridge section are just too narrow to take larger vehicles. This makes matters far worse for A217 traffic north/south.
- Vehicles block the entry/exit points from the bridges causing further tailbacks.
- The tailback from the Western section (anti-clockwise exit) often encroaches onto the Motorway with the significant danger of serious collisions.
- The current ‘trunking’ Duct under the bridges across the motorway holding all the utilities is full to capacity with water, gas, electric, phones, etc. There is an urgent need to increase the capacity for such services as Virgin Optical Fibre Broadband services.
- The current exit onto Gatton Bottom Lane is too narrow and poorly designed.
- The exit onto Wray Lane/Gatton Bottom Lane has an adverse camber which is dangerous.
Benefits for local and Surrey residents include a safer junction, better traffic management, new road surfacing, and signage –all of which we would have otherwise had to be paid for from local taxation rather than central government funding.
Specific issues raised:
- The commencement date has now been put back until after the Christmas trading period for Reigate Town Centre.
- The Project is now expected to last up to 50 weeks, even allowing for 24/7 working at times. This obviously takes it up until Christmas 2020-but hopefully it will finish well before.
- The Access/Egress onto the A217 from the Site Logistics Base on farmland near the junction was discussed. Highways England/Contractors explored the suggestion to move the entrance onto the M25 ‘off slip’ from the Clockwise carriageway, but this is not feasible for engineering reasons and would be very costly.
- There are concerns about contractor HGVs traveling around the Reigate one-way system and back up the hill. In fact, the number of HGV Lorries using the entrance/exit will be no more than 2 per hour, (We are now satisfied that this actually increases the HGV movements in the Town Centre by about 2% during the first and last months). During the project, there is actually very little HGV movement affecting the Town Centre.
- Closures of the Junction/lanes on the bridges – timing. This is all about expediency and safety of workers. The periods of closure are in two parts – nearside working and offside working, and then full reinstatement of the waterproofing and finally road surfacing-which will be guaranteed for 10 years.
- The elongated diversion for several weeks for vehicles exiting the M25 anti-clockwise and wishing to go down the A217 for Reigate, having to travel north around the Babylon Lane Roundabout and back to the M25. We discussed any options to change this, bearing in mind the amount of traffic between 7.30 am and 9.0am weekday mornings traveling south along the A217. We challenged H E’s ‘modeling’ on this and pointed out the impact on Lower Kingswood, Kingswood and Tadworth residents. There just doesn’t seem to be an alternative, but the Project Team agreed to increase signage, information and monitor it so the traffic signals at the Motorway can be adjusted. We did ask that ALL those affected, including schools and businesses, are kept up to date. There will be a comprehensive Communications Plan.
- Where possible, 24/7 working will take place, but obviously it’s not possible throughout the Project period.
- Despite our suggestions, there are no plans to place a controlled crossing point for cyclists, pedestrians, Horse-riders, etc, at the bridges junctions. This was considered by Highways England originally and disregarded. This decision is unchanged.
I am satisfied that Highways England and Surrey Highways have considered local concerns, and in some cases changed their plans to accommodate them, or provided more information which negates them.
In summary, the case for the Project is strong and can only grow. Despite all our reservations, we agreed that the least harmful ways of working are being used, and it is clear there are some benefits for Surrey and local residents.
I will be keeping a close eye on developments and let residents know of any updates I receive in the meantime.
The project will not address the key issue for Reigate traffic which is the congestion on Reigate Hill and the level-crossing in Reigate that is expected to see an increase in barrier downtime in May 2020 when GTR introduces another service per hour. This is a separate problem that needs to be looked at urgently.