THE EAGERLY-awaited A21 dualling project between Tonbridge and Pembury has been moved forward by one year following intense pressure from a coalition of MPs, council leaders and businesses.
In a controversial Government decision in July, dualling of the single-lane Tonbridge to Pembury A21 was pushed back to 2012/13.
But improvements to the stretch of road, where daily congestion causes misery for motorists, are now set to go ahead in 2011/12.
Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark, who led the group of council leaders, MPs, and business representatives, called the decision a "victory for common sense".
He added: "As soon as we knew about the delay MPs, council leaders and businesses along the entire route of the A21, from Sevenoaks through to Hastings, put pressure on ministers.
"We made clear that the improvements are critical, not just because of current traffic hold-ups, but because access is required to the new Pembury Hospital which opens in 2011. Lives could be lost. These improvements have been subject to many delays in recent years, but the last nine months have been remarkable."
The plans had been thrown into jeopardy earlier this year when it emerged the cost of the project had rocketed by £88m – taking the grand total to £215m. Mr Clark said: "The Regional Transport Board, which recommends which road improvements in the South East should go ahead, was under pressure from the Department of Transport to drop the A21 on grounds of cost. I gave evidence at their meeting in London and they threw out this recommendation."
While Mr Clark said the Government decision to put the improvement timetable back on track was "great news", he added there would be no complacency.
"We've been waiting for these improvements for long enough and patience is in short supply. We will be pressing to ensure there are no further hitches and, if there is any chance at all of an earlier start, it must be taken," he said. "We're not taking pressure off until we see work begin."
Improvements to the stretch of road between Kippings Cross and Lamberhurst remain planned for 2012/13.