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Smart Motorway M20

Upgrade to smart motorway - M20 front cover

Read the Highways England Consultation update here (6mb) >>

What’s next

Main construction works on this project will start in late May 2018. This will follow the implementation of narrow lanes in early May.

To implement narrow lanes, we will require a series of overnight closures.

The works will commence at junction 3 and move east towards junction 5. We will be initially working in the verge. Once the verge works are complete, we will change the arrangement of
narrow lanes and commence working in the central reserve.


2016 to March 2019: Design works

March 2018:  Start of advanced works

May 2018:  Start of main works

March 2020:  Completion of main works

Why we need this scheme

The M20 Junctions 3 to 5 forms part of a principal route that provides key links via Dover and Channel Tunnel to and from mainland Europe. As such, it facilitates national, regional and local
travel, and regeneration and growth. Furthermore, the route provides critical access via the M26/M25 to London, the airports of Heathrow and Gatwick and to the wider South-East, South-
West and the Midlands.

The M20 at junctions 3 to 5 currently suffers frequent delays due to the volume of traffic. This scheme will provide greater traffic capacity and more reliable journey times by improving the flow of traffic.


This scheme aims to:

  • reduce congestion by smoothing the flow of traffic to improve journey times and make them more reliable
  • facilitate economic growth within the region, by providing much needed capacity on the motorway
  • maximise motorway capacity while maintaining safety on motorways, which already are among the safest roads in the world

The scheme in detail

We are converting a section of the M20 into a Smart Motorway. Smart motorways use the latest technology to improve journeys by sensing traffic flow and setting speed limits accordingly to keep traffic moving smoothly, instead of continually stopping and starting. The smart motorway proposals on the M20, between junctions 3 to 5, involve converting most of the hard shoulder permanently to a traffic lane to create much needed extra capacity needed to support economic growth.

There will be more gantries and electronic road signs on the motorway to give information about road conditions and speed limits to help smooth the flow of traffic.

The proposed scheme will enable proactive management of the M20 carriageway, including the link roads from/to the M26 at Junction 3 (the junction with the M26) to Junction 4 including the junction 4 east bound off slip and west bound on slip.

It will also extend the existing variable mandatory speed limit to encompass the current hard shoulder between Junction 4 and Junction 5 including the junction realignments at Junction 4 and 5.

The scheme includes:

  • converting the hard shoulder to create a permanent fourth lane between junctions 3 and 5
  • redefined junction layouts to accommodate the fourth lane. Junction 3 and Junction 4
  • eastbound will have three lanes and a hard shoulder. Junction 4 westbound and Junction 5 will have four lanes and no hard shoulder
  • new and refurbished gantries with variable message signs
  • installing new electronic information signs, signals and CCTV cameras – these will be used to vary speed limits and manage traffic flow and incidents
  • installing 5 emergency areas to use in place of the hard shoulder which include Emergency Roadside Telephones (SOS) and CCTV cameras to improve emergency service response times
  • improving the central reserve and adding a reinforced barrier to improve safety
  • adding new noise barriers in built up areas
  • replacement of the Teapot Lane Footbridge deck at Aylesford to accommodate the hardshoulder conversion to a running lane
  • resurfacing lanes 1 and 4 in both directions with a lower noise surface
  • improvement of drainage

To ensure the scheme is operational on opening, there are various factors that need to be
addressed. These include:

  • the removal of the steel central reserve barrier and replacing with a concrete barrier
  • road restraint in the verge
  • central reserve / hard shoulder hardening (i.e. removal of the soft verge)
  • construction of Emergency Refuge Areas
  • implementing new drainage systems
  • removal of existing signs and gantries and replacing with upgraded infrastructure
  • new communications infrastructure between the signage and the Regional Control Centre
  • new CCTV cameras with full (infrared) coverage
  • partial carriageway resurfacing with a lower noise surface

Emergency Refuge Areas

As the hard shoulder will be converted into a fourth lane, we will be installing Emergency Refuge Areas. On this stretch of smart motorway, the distance between safe places will be approximately 1950m. This includes both Emergency Areas and hard shoulder where available.

For further information on driving on Smart Motorways, please view our guide: How to drive on a smart motorway.

Because we are working within the Highway Boundary and our environmental studies so far indicate that air quality and noise impacts are not significant, we do not believe anyone will be entitled to compensation. Details on our compensation policies are available on the Highways England website.

Teapot Lane Footbridge

Teapot Lane Footbridge deck will be replaced to facilitate turning the hard shoulder into an All Lane Running lane as the height of the bridge is not high enough at the sides.

To cross the motorway without a footbridge, a temporary diversion will be possible via Station Road, which crosses the M20 approximately 450m to the west. This route is suitable for both pedestrians and cyclists with a delay of approximately 11mins and 5mins respectively.

Installation of a temporary crossing was considered but due to the limited space available this is not feasible.

We are aware this will impact people who use the local schools. We will liaise with representatives from local schools including Aylesford Primary and Pre-School and Aylesford Sports College and other local stakeholders, around the timing of the work to the bridge deck in relation to closures to minimise disruption. We will also engage with these stakeholders in relation to road safety and other relevant matters as well as working in partnership with local stakeholders to deliver projects to make life easier for those affected when the work is taking place.