Highways England has caved into pressure to halt Longfield road traffic lights after one business leader said firms were losing ‘thousands’ in trade owing to congestion.
The lights, used to ensure unimpeded passage for trucks belonging to Balfour Beatty, the main contractor for the A21 dualling work, have caused chaos for commuters.
The roads agency has now said it has ‘temporarily suspended’ the use of the lights, situated less than 50 yards from the North Farm Roundabout, having listened to companies’ concerns.
Kevin Stanton, managing director of the print firm Fox Marketing Services, said the lights had caused major disruption for himself and his staff.
Mr Stanton said: “They were pushing the button every two minutes during peak time with no regard for businesses on the estate.
“As soon as a digger came along it caused further delays. It is just irresponsible to stop traffic during the rush hour.”
Mr Stanton said the resulting congestion had led to lost work hours.
He added: “I live in Bidborough and a journey which should only take ten minutes ended up taking over an hour.
“Businesses down here were suffering and they must have been losing thousands of pounds a day from delays.”
John Hale, head salesman at DFS, welcomed the decision to suspend usage of the lights, but believes the damage to businesses will have a lasting effect.
He said: “It has had a negative impact on sales, and this is a commission based job so staff suffer both inconvenience and financially.
“Trade is noticeably down as customers are put off coming here. The problem is, it will take time for their confidence to return if they’ve had a bad experience sitting in hours of traffic.
“I understand why they have to do it, I just wish they had been a bit more considerate about times.”
Highways England project manager Anne-Marie Palmer said the lights had been temporarily suspended in order to assess the situation.
She said: “We are working with Kent County Council to work out a new method of operation. We are aware of the congestion the lights have caused and we are listening to businesses about their concerns.
“Upgrading the A21 is a big job, and requires a lot of specialist heavy equipment. We always try and minimise the amount of times we need to move this equipment across Longfield Road or the A21 itself, and to carry it out at less busy times wherever possible.”