Heavy traffic and a broken-down vehicle were yesterday blamed for a motoring nightmare that saw shoppers queuing up to six hours to leave Bluewater.
Traffic systems at the Greenhithe shopping centre were overwhelmed by the last minute surge in visitors, with the problem exacerbated after a car broke down on one of the roundabouts leading on to the main road.
Stranded motorists took to Twitter on Monday to vent their frustration, with Adele Jenkins Tweeting: “Traffic is chaos. Think me may have to live here.”
Others, such as Megan Curant warned fellow shoppers to stay away from the centre. She Tweeted: “If anyone is going to Bluewater I strongly advise you stay well clear.”
One motorist reported seeing a woman visibly weeping behind the wheel of her car. She appeared to be having ‘a panic attack’ while pleading with shopping centre staff to help.
Those taking public transport were also caught up in the gridlock, which was so bad the bus system was unable to properly function.
Heavy traffic began to cause tailbacks on on to the adjacent access roads, with delays reported on the B255 in both directions between A226 London Road, the A206 and Bluewater Parkway.
During the peak of the congestion, a member of Bluewater management tweeted an apology to their customers. It said: “Sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused. We’re working with Kent Police to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.”
When contacted by the Times yesterday (Tuesday), a spokesman for Britain’s fourth largest shopping centre, which opened in 1999, blamed factors ‘outside of Bluewater’s control’ for the chaos.
She said: “On Monday a broken down vehicle and a high volume of traffic in and around Bluewater caused delays to Christmas shoppers exiting the car parks.
“While the traffic in surrounding areas, including the M25, is out of Bluewater’s control, we have a dedicated team who work closely with organisations such as Kent Police and Highways England to minimise traffic congestion at peak times.
“This includes deploying additional hosts in our car parks to help guests find spaces, as well as implementing traffic controls on surrounding roads.
“In addition, our extended opening hours provide guests with the greatest possible amount of time to visit Bluewater, which helps to reduce traffic on surrounding roads.”