Reigate Hill southbound closure from Monday 7 September

David Grantham, 4 September 2020

Map from Surrey CC leaflet, showing road closure in red.

Getting into Reigate from the M25 will need some planning from Monday 7 September when the controversial closure of the southbound side of Reigate Hill (the A217) gets under way.

Surrey County Council is still saying the closure could last up to 14 weeks, to allow repairs to a retaining wall and to replace the barrier that’s on top of it.

Anyone hoping to use Gatton Bottom as an alternative will be disappointed, as the council has ruled that southbound drivers will be unable to access that road from Reigate Hill.

Instead, the official diversion is over 20 miles long, tracking north from the M25 junction 8 and taking in parts of Burgh Heath, Epsom, Ashtead, Leatherhead and Dorking before a return along the A25.

That route is just the official one, designed by Surrey as an equivalent A-road route suitable for even the heaviest vehicles.

Surrey have said that they expect “local drivers to use more local routes”.

In a recent update to the project information page, the county council has said that 35 signs will go up on local roads warning that they are narrow and not suitable for heavy vehicles.

Criticism of the closure plans has been predictably robust on social media.

Much comment has centred on timing, and the twin issues of why the work couldn’t have been done during lockdown and why it needed to start just after schools have gone back.

Surrey’s answers on the project page boil down to a need to plan the work long in advance, including going out to tender, coupled with a need to get on with it.

The county council has also said that the work can’t be delayed to combine with Highways England’s separate project to upgrade the M25 junction, due to start in April 2021.

That’s because the council doesn’t have much confidence on the start date of that project – and Highways England has since said clear dates won’t be available until later this year.

The prohibition on southbound traffic using Gatton Bottom has proved particularly controversial.

Surrey’s project page says this is down to worries about enforcing the 7.5 tonne limit on Gatton Bottom, and the potential for a dangerous back-up on to the M25 as drivers decide if their vehicle is suitable.

The use of marshals to prevent large vehicles using Gatton Bottom would also cause tailbacks, the council has said.  Some HGV drivers would ignore marshals, and attempt to drive through putting the team at risk or causing vehicles to get stuck.

During the closure, the Reigate Hill café will still be accessible via Wray Lane and Gatton Bottom.

Buses will be diverted down Pebble Hill road.

The council has said that it will work with the contractor to accelerate the works as much as possible.

Temporary traffic lights, rather than the full southbound closure, were ruled out because they would mean the work could only be done in shorter sections and would take longer.

Only working at night would also not help because the road will have to be closed anyway for the duration of the project, the council has said.

Planned resurfacing of an important alternative north-south corridor, the A23, has been deferred until at least January 2021.

The project information page is being updated regularly with new questions and answers.

To get ready for the works, both the north and southbound sides of the hill will close on Sunday night from 8pm until 6am on the Monday: more details on that are also on the project page.

The reason for the work
Repairs will be made to a 240 metre retaining wall that runs along the road and a vehicle barrier that is supported by it.

The county council’s project page says: “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.”

Why a full closure southbound?
Surrey’s project page states:

“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:

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

“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 means that the chosen traffic management set up will be in place 24 hours a day, so working at night offers no advantages.

“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.”