Tunbridge Wells Liberal Democrats welcome the public inquiry into dualling the A21 road link.
The long-delayed opening of the inquiry marks a much-awaited milestone in the campaign to get the A21 turned into a dual carriageway between Tonbridge and Pembury.
The case for dualling the road is overwhelming, despite the environmental concerns voiced by some. Over 35,000 vehicles, including ambulances and heavy lorries, use this section of the A21 every day. It is also a vital link for many with the new much-improved Pembury hospital and its A&E facilities.
Ironically, for a road linking Pembury hospital with the cottage hospital at Vauxhall Lane in Tonbridge, this stretch of the A21 is an appalling accident blackspot. Over the past five years, this section has seen 71 accidents involving people being injured, and in four of these cases fatal. In many parts, it is also a potential deathtrap for motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians, as I have found trying to deliver Focus leaflets to households along the route.
There is also the wider pollution displacement factor to consider. Because the delays on the A21 are so notorious, traffic studies have shown that more cars and lorries use the A26 through Southborough and Tunbridge Wells to avoid it. This causes congestion and exhaust fumes to blight a heavily residential area, which also has many of our local secondary and primary schools, with the result that all suffer from detiorating air quality and noise.
We hear the views of the Kent Green Party and the Woodland Trust, but would argue that in this case the majority view for common sense prevails.
The inquiry has already heard that travel times between Pembury and Tonbridge would be reduced by 69% if the A21 is dualled. There should therefore be no further unnecessary delays which cost still more lives.