A217 Reigate Hill retaining wall replacement project

Update Thursday 3 December

On Wednesday 9 December, the road will be closed in both directions from 8pm until 6am Thursday 10 December.

These works are on schedule to be completed on Thursday 10 December.

On Wednesday 9 December, the road will be closed in both directions from 8pm until 6am Thursday 10 December.

This is so we can remove the temporary barrier put in place to complete the works safely. The road will be fully open in both directions following the completion of these night works.

We thank you for your continued patience whilst we carry out these essential safety works.

Ongoing works

Start date Sunday 6 September for 14 weeks

We are planning to repair the 240 metre long retaining wall that runs along the A217 Reigate Hill and replace the vehicle barrier that is supported by it.

There will be a 24/7 road closure southbound along the A217 at the exit from the M25 J8 roundabout for the duration of the works. The road will remain open northbound.

We will be working with the contractor to accelerate the works and reduce the overall duration as much as possible.

The road will be closed in both directions for one night at the end of the scheme to remove the 200m temporary concrete barrier. Closing the road in both directions means that we can safely remove the temporary barrier in one night instead of over three days using lane closures.

More information can be found in our residents leaflet (PDF) which has been delivered locally.

Please note: A 24/7 recovery vehicle service will be in operation for any vehicles that may break down northbound along the A217 during the works. This will mean we can react to any situation with a vehicle blocking the road and therefore prevent a build-up of traffic.

Why are these works essential?

The existing structure has been degraded by a combination of accident damage, erosion caused by water runoff, and the weight of heavy goods vehicles using the road.

Originally built in 1972, it is no longer fit for purpose, and whilst the temporary concrete barrier that has been placed on the footway provides protection from vehicle impact, it does not address the continued degradation of the structure, so a permanent repair is essential to ensure the A217 remains safe for all road users.

Will we be able to access J8 M25 from Gatton Bottom crossing A217 at the top of Reigate Hill?

Up until 8pm on Wednesday 9 December, you will be able to access the M25 from Gatton Bottom travelling north on the A217. Whilst the closure of the A217 is Southbound only; vehicles will not be able to access Gatton Bottom leaving the M25 at J8.

During the final night closure, Wednesday 9 December 8pm - 6am, general access through the works area is not possible. You will not be able to access J8 M25 from Gatton Bottom or Wray Lane and will need to follow the diversion.

What happens if diversion signage is missing?

Our traffic management company will be checking all of our signs daily to make sure they are still in place and can be seen from the road. Any issues with signs that aren't clearly displayed or missing will be rectified.

Why is a southbound closure the best option?

Temporary traffic lights with narrowing the carriageway to two lanes and night works were all considered, but these would all be either more disruptive, or less safe, than a closure in one direction for the duration of the works.

The following options were considered and rejected for the reasons stated:

Simply - there is not enough width to maintain two-way traffic past the works, particularly at the southern end of the site.

For example - a truck delivering materials is 2.4m in width. Allowing for two way traffic to pass, the maximum amount of space left at the widest part of the road is 3.8m. When the delivery trucks offload, they use stabilisers making them much wider (up to 7m) - they would be unable to deliver materials to the majority of the site. It is worth noting that at the southern end, the road is significantly narrower- as there is no crawler lane at all. In this area, there is insufficient room to get a vehicle into the site at all with two traffic lanes running alongside.

Two-way traffic lights would cause queues at both ends of the works, potentially grid locking both the M25 roundabout and Reigate town centre.

Temporary Traffic Lights cannot be set up far enough apart to allow the works to be constructed in one phase, so the disruption would be there for longer as the works would have to be done in smaller sections.

The site set up requires a temporary barrier to be placed between the live traffic and the site. This takes a whole day to install or remove. This means that the chosen traffic management set up must remain in place 24 hours a day for the duration of the scheme, so working at night offers no advantages, but has disadvantages in terms of decreased visibility, lower temperatures, and increased noise and light pollution for adjacent resident and wildlife in the SSSI protected woodland which forms the embankment below the structure.

Closing the A217 to northbound traffic rather than southbound would move any potential disruption into Reigate Town centre. Any traffic ignoring the diversion signage in the town centre (including HGV's) would then be forced onto residential roads at the bottom of the hill as they would not be able to U-turn in the road. There is nowhere to cut off traffic heading north on the A217 via Reigate – it would cause much more disruption and HGVs stuck and unable to turn around. Coupled with the level crossing in Reigate this is a much more disruptive and dangerous option.

Traffic lights

These were considered but discounted due to the potential for traffic queues onto the M25 J8 roundabout and Reigate town centre at peak times. There is also a lack of physical space to construct the new wall safely and would increase in the amount of time required to construct the scheme, with inevitable disruption to residents and road users.

Night Working

Only working at night would mean that the works took much longer to complete and would not be a safe option for the works to be carried out. The type of work means that the traffic management would have to stay in place 24 hours – so the working hours would have no benefit and extend the works causing more disruption to road users and residents.

Is it possible to re-position the concrete barrier so that the lane is wide enough for vehicles to pass cyclists safely?

This was considered but unfortunately it would not be possible. We have deliberately kept the lane narrow to prevent people from being tempted to overtake cyclists on the hill, to ensure that there are no "close passing" incidents.

Because of the amount of space required for us to work safely on the other side of the barrier, we cannot make the uphill lane wide enough for a lorry to pass a cyclist safely - recommended to be a 1.5m gap.

Instead we would advise cyclists who are unsure if they can ride up the hill in the traffic lane to use the signed pedestrian diversion route along the bridleway at the beginning of the works across to Wray Lane, and continue their journey up there, or to consider an alternative route.

Similarly, there is a signed diversion for pedestrians and cyclists to travel south which utilises bridleways and Wray Lane.

Under no circumstances should anyone attempt to climb over the concrete barrier or otherwise gain access to the construction site, the site is closed off for safety reasons. All cyclists must follow the same rules applied to all other road users regarding road closures.

The footpath remains open from the J8 roundabout to provide access to the National Trust car park, Gatton Park and Wray Lane. We would encourage cyclists to safely navigate the pavement at this point should they wish to access Gatton Bottom or the diversion route.

At the Gatton Bottom junction, we then have a 'hard closure' of the A217 and diversion signs for pedestrians and cyclists to follow. It is at this point, and at the bottom of the hill, where people are ignoring the barriers. We have tried to ensure that there is a solid barrier across where it is not safe for people to pass, as well as clear signage advising of alternate routes.

Long delays in the surrounding area

Please plan your journey before you go – traffic in the area could be busier than normal and your journey could take longer than normal.

Works done in small sections?

The entire length of the wall needs to be rebuilt. Carrying out the work in sections would be unsafe to our workers and cause queues in both directions due to the traffic lights in use. There is a lack of physical space to carry out the works safely using traffic lights. Carrying out the works in smaller sections would greatly increase the time the works took and ultimately have a bigger impact on road users.

Why could these works not have been carried out during lockdown?

These works have been planned for some time. With all Surrey Highways works they must to go out to tender and this takes time. We were finalising the works in March and then sent it to tender. Unfortunately, we could not have predicted what was to happen next regarding Covid-19. We also must get a permit for any works undertaken on the roads and trying to get a road space where the diversion and works do not clash with others in the area also dictated the dates we could work.

Why could the road not be opened between the hours of work?

No that would not be practical as the section that is being worked on is long. If the team were to remove the traffic management – cones, barriers etc and reopened the road after each shift; and then set up the traffic management again before each shift then this would take roughly three hours for each set up and close down – leaving only a couple of hours from any eight hour working shift to get any actual work done. This would increase the work duration massively. Also setting up the traffic management and taking it down is dangerous and puts the team in undue danger during the works.

Also, once the work is started on the barrier the structure will be weakened sufficiently that we could not guarantee safety for road users.

Why was Gatton Bottom not used for the diversion?

Gatton Bottom was ruled out as a potential diversion route as it is subject to a 7.5t weight limit and is wholly inappropriate for the volume and type of traffic that currently uses the A217.

Why are we not closing off Gatton bottom from the M25 using a width restriction?

Consideration was given to allow access to Gatton Bottom for permitted vehicles, but it is almost certain that prohibited vehicles would ignore the restriction, and this would create more problems. When planning our works and traffic management we must provide consistent, simple and easy instructions for drivers to navigate. Having specific rules for access would be dangerous for all traffic on the M25 junction 8 roundabout. It would cause queues of traffic whilst drivers decided if they could or should use the route. This would be far too dangerous and cause huge tail backs on the road.

Can Gatton Bottom be used for access only?

Consideration was given to allow access to Gatton Bottom for permitted vehicles, but it is almost certain that prohibited vehicles would ignore the restriction, and this would create more problems. When planning our works and traffic management we must provide consistent, simple and easy instructions for drivers to navigate. Having specific rules for access would be dangerous for all traffic on the M25 junction 8 roundabout. It would cause queues of traffic whilst drivers decided if they could or should use the route. This would be far too dangerous and cause huge tail backs on the road.

Could you use marshals at Gatton Bottom to allow access for cars?

Using marshals at the works entrance to allow cars through would cause huge tailbacks on the M25 junction 8 roundabout and this in turn would be dangerous to all road users and impact the local area. We have experience of using marshals in the past and it can be dangerous as HGV drivers ignore the marshal and will drive through. This would put our team at risk, and ultimately lead to the HGV or unsuitable vehicles getting stuck down Gatton Bottom or the surrounding roads.

Why can you not put width restrictions on the A217 or the M25, so that cars can have access but not HGVs?

There are two potential locations for the width restriction:

At the entrance to Gatton Bottom- this would allow any vehicle to proceed off the M25 junction onto the A217 south- which would cause many more vehicles who should be using an alternative route to use Gatton Bottom instead- adding to the congestion. Any vehicle failing to make the width restriction at this location would be unable to turn around without reversing- causing significant risk of collision. We would also then be faced with having to U-turn any vehicles that thought the A217 was still open, and don't want to go down Gatton Bottom instead.

At the exit of the roundabout onto the A217 South, traffic is legally entitled to travel at 60mph. It is impossible to navigate a width restriction at this speed- most drivers will slow to a crawl- blocking the signal controlled roundabout, and significantly increasing the chances of a collision. We would also have to install traffic management to narrow the exit from 2 lanes to 1, which would involve removing one of the lanes on the roundabout, affecting any traffic wishing to enter the clockwise M25 from the north.

This highlights that what appears to be a very simple solution, is in fact a much more complex collection of several problems, which we have considered over a period of several months, before arriving at our chosen solution, which whilst inconvenient for a few, is much less disruptive for many more, and safer for everyone.

Do the buses know? How will it affect my journey?

Surrey highways and the bus operators a have been involved with the planning and progress of these works since March 2020. We have had meetings, discussions and ensured that all the information was presented clearly. Having consulted with bus companies the bus diversion is via Pebble Hill each bus company will be communicating this to their passengers.

Will emergency vehicles be allowed access, and do they know about the works?

All the emergency services are advised of all works on Surrey Highways. We are in communication with them and they are aware of the works. There is a fast and clear route on the 'Smart Motorway' on the M25/M23 which allows the emergency services access to East Surrey Hospital via a dedicated lane. Emergency service access will not be delayed or disrupted for any residents during these works.

What is the diversion and why is it so long?

Surrey Highways has one diversion for these works, this will be suitable for all vehicle types. Our diversions take into account the vehicles that will be using it. In this instance it needs to be suitable for HGVs and large vehicles. Our diversions are like for like and use the same 'A' class roads. These routes will not include dangerous turns, low bridges or unsuitable roads.

Will drivers use alternative routes and unsuitable roads?

We expect local drivers to use more local routes. We cannot enforce the route any drivers take including large vehicles and we know that in this area particularly drivers ignore official diversions and use other routes.

We are placing 35 additional 'Narrow Road – not suitable for large vehicles' signs in the wider area including Markedge Lane, Gatton Bottom and Rocky Lane. These roads already have width and weight restrictions on them. The aim of the additional signs is to reduce the number of unsuitable vehicles trying to use these roads.

However, we cannot enforce the restrictions or signage on the roads - that is a police matter. Our traffic management company will be checking the signs daily to make sure they are still in place and can be seen from the road.

How will you warn drivers of the road closure?

We have placed signs on site advising of these works on 5 August to give drivers advanced notice of our works and to help them plan their routes accordingly.

In addition to this, we have additional signage around the surrounding area:

Highways England – M25 and M23

We have been in discussions with Highway England and they will be using their electronic gantry signs on both the M25 and M23 to warn motorists of the closure so they can divert before they get to the actual road closure on the A217.

Local routes

We are also putting warnings up on our large static information signs around the wider area, so motorists can divert before they get to the closure.

Why can we not do these works with Highways England junction 8 improvement works?

We have been in discussion with Highways England about working collaboratively with their works. The scheme for the junction 8 improvements was postponed last year due to a lack of funding. Six months ago, when we started planning the retaining wall works, we contacted Highways England to work collaboratively with them for these works. Highways England has told us consistently that the works have not been scheduled and still do not have any funding and that they were not in any position to work collaboratively with us for these works. We have since planned and programmed our retaining wall works and agreed on start dates and instructed the teams for the works. We cannot delay the start without a large financial cost to Surrey Highways.

Highways England have recently published that they have April 2021 as an intended start date for their junction improvement works. These dates are an indication of when they may start works, but it is likely that like last time they do not have the funding and the works do not go ahead. We cannot delay our works at cost to us on the chance that the junction 8 improvement works may go ahead in eight months time.

The closure of this section of road would have had less impact during the lockdown period or during the school holidays. Why did you wait until the start of the academic year when schools are reopening fully for the first time?

These essential works to rectify a safety issue have been planned for some time. Specialist works such as this are required to follow a formal tender process, and this takes time. We were finalising the works in March and then commenced the tender process. Unfortunately, we could not have predicted what was to happen next regarding Covid-19. We also must get a permit for any works undertaken on the roads and trying to get a road space where the diversion and works do not clash with others in the area, along with needing to liaise and coordinate closely with Highways England, given the close proximity to junction 8 of the M25, also dictated the dates we could work.

The Government guidance on schools reopening regarding transport states that "Local authorities must give active consideration to the impacts of increased car use on local congestion and ensure that mitigations to minimise these impacts are implemented through their network management duty".

The impact of the work is not widespread. It is localised to the main access to the school. There are many alternative routes into the school.

Our network management team were heavily involved in determining the timing of the works, and the diversion routes, and those decisions have to be taken from previous experience and understanding of driver behaviour, whilst looking at the overall road network, not just the stretch of road which is closed.

The government guidance referred to was issued mid- August, after our works had been programmed. Our Traffic Management plan is robust and has been carefully considered. This was a very difficult task to achieve and whilst some alternative routes are not ideal and will mean drivers have to seek alternative routes, it is the 'least bad' option for the network overall. This means that it impacts on some more than others. We have publicised the works early to allow people the time to assess and plan the alternative which mitigates the disruption to them.

We recognise that the commencement of the works and associated closures are regrettable in relation to clashing with pupils finally returning to schools. At the time of the tendering exercise and the programming of works, there was no certainty as to when schools would be re-opening for the Autumn term – if at all - and we were not able to defer the decision on the works commencement date until such time as that certainty was available. Deferral of the commencement is not an option as this places a risk to the overall project delivery with regards to whether adequate road surface temperatures can be maintained for concrete to cure, later into the autumn/winter period.

What access measures were considered for the school?

As with all Surrey Highways works, we have an official diversion and locals finding their own routes. We would expect this with school traffic. Local buses are diverting down Pebble Hill, and other routes that drivers may choose are down to the individuals. Our communications plan is designed to ensure all those using this route are aware of the works and can pre-plan alternate to routes to their destination, including school traffic.

We are not able to set up marshals or one-way roads for school access as this will be open to abuse and drivers not following our signage. If we were to place traffic lights or a temporary one-way system on Markedge Lane or Rocky Lane this would cause congestion on the A23 which is right next to a permanent controlled junction. Given the A23 will take much of the displaced A217 traffic for longer north/south journeys, we are seeking to avoid creating additional disruption on this parallel strategic route.

Why can there not be marshalled access like further up the A217 for the void?

On the A217 at Burgh Heath marshalled access is across a traffic light controlled junction. The scenario of allowing part access to Gatton Bottom is not the same as the marshalled access on the A217 currently. Gatton Bottom is a through road but one which is not capable to taking the quantity and size of vehicles which would otherwise use the A217 or the signed diversion. The scenario further up the A217 is allowing access to a small number of vehicles which would normally use that exact piece of road to enter their properties, and have no other way to do so. The team have been able to safely set up and maintain access for residents and the school only, and is necessary given that there is no other access to these properties and school. Whereas for the Royal Alexander and Albert school and residents there are several alternative routes. Whilst these are not necessarily ideal, they are nevertheless access routes. We acknowledge that there is no ideal traffic management solution to facilitate these works, but we believe that the measures decided upon represent the 'least worst option'.

Has the council considered allowing for access at certain times of the day, for example 7.30am – 9.00am which could be manned to prevent unsuitable vehicles using the route, similar to other works?

On the A217 at Burgh Heath marshalled access is across a traffic-light controlled junction. The team have been able to safely set up and maintain access for residents and the school only and is necessary given that there is no other access to these properties and school. Whereas for your school there are several alternative routes. Whilst these are not necessarily ideal, they are nevertheless access routes to the school. We acknowledge that there is no ideal traffic management solution to facilitate these works, but we believe that the measures decided upon represent the 'least bad option'.

Are you cutting any trees down as part of these works?

No, we will not be cutting any trees down for these works.

Have you planned any works on the A23 during the retaining wall works?

No, the A23 resurfacing works have been deferred to January 2021 at the earliest.


Files available to download