|Location Map ( geo)|
|Distance:||18.6 miles (29.9 km)|
|Meets:||A229, A20, B2012, M20, M2, A2, B2006, B2005, B2231, A2500, B2007, A250|
|Former Number(s):||B2231, A250|
|Route outline (key)|
The A249 is a major road in north Kent and the main road on the Isle of Sheppey.
Section 1: Maidstone – Detling
The road starts at traffic lights on the A229 one-way loop in the centre of Maidstone. Some maps show that Knightrider Street (seriously!) which runs one-way westbound through the centre of the loop is also part of the A249. The road heads east along the D2 Wat Tyler Way before reaching a gyratory where the A20 bears off eastwards; all the route of the A249 so far has been a useless multiplex with that road.
Now S2 the A249 continues uphill through the outskirts of Maidstone to the Chiltern Hundreds roundabout where the dual carriageway starts again and the speed limit rises from 30 mph to 40 mph. The old route goes straight on here, but that's now a park and ride and instead there's a turn to the right, then to the left, where it meets M20 junction 7.
Section 2: Detling – The Ridgeway
From here, the road gains the national speed limit. The stretch from here to the M2 is a very useful bit of road and was part of the main route to Dover and Folkestone before the M20 was completed past Maidstone. Coming the other way, M2 traffic is signed onto the A249 for the Channel Tunnel.
The road reaches Detling almost immediately. It used to go through the village, but was bypassed in the summer of 1962 when the then-A20(M) was built. However, the bypass had two at-grade side turns with the Pilgrims Way which resulted in many accidents culminating in the sad death of Jade Hobbs when she was just eight years old. There is now a footbridge named Jade's Crossing (built in 2002) and a GATSO-enforced 50 mph limit.
North of Detling, the road then rejoins its original route, albeit dualled, and climbs slowly uphill, still on a 50 limit. Coming the other way (southbound) is more fun though, as this is the original course of the road with lots of tight corners to negotiate. Even without the speed cameras I wouldn't recommend doing more than 50 mph around some of the bends.
At the top of the hill, there's a turning off for the Kent County Showground which usually involves gridlock on the A249 when there's a show on as the police have a tendency to close off one lane of traffic in either direction. Past this, national speed limit resumes as the road slowly winds its way downhill. This section was dualled later than the bit around Detling but it still has at-grade junctions and some frontages (most noticeably a pub and a café) up to the roundabout with M2 J5. You can see the viaduct over the M2 from miles away having come up the valley. From here to the end of the road, the A249 is trunk.
Section 3: The Ridgeway – Sheerness
After the roundabout there's a new bit of dual carriageway as the A249 passes under the M2 viaduct, with the original route running to the east of this. This section was newly built in the mid-nineties and is very good by all accounts.
A couple of miles further is a limited-access grade-separated roundabout with the A2 (with only south-facing sliproads to/from the A249). At this point, three versions of the A249 are running side by side - the original route up Bobbing Hill, the wide single-carriageway bypass of this from the seventies, and our current dualled route. The second of these meets the dual carriageway at the next grade separated roundabout.
While the current A249 continues on its merry way past Iwade, the old route has been extensively traffic calmed to the extent it is impossible to believe it was once a primary route. The two routes cross over each other just before crossing the Swale. The old route takes the 1959 Kingsferry Bridge (which replaced an earlier bridge of 1904), which also carries the railway line onto the island. This is a lifting bridge and so sometimes opens to let ships through. We don't worry about that, of course, as we continue up high over the Swale on the dual-carriageway Sheppey Crossing, opened to traffic on 3rd July 2006. The old route joins back up with the new a mile or so north of the bridges, although as earlier, both routes themselves are replacement of the original winding route from the old ferry.
The A249 turns left at a roundabout with the A2500 (former A250) and heads to the left hand side of Sheppey. The next roundabout along is with the current A250 (former A249) to Halfway and Minster, and the B2007 to Queenborough, where the speed limit lowers to 40 mph. The A249 itself bypasses the latter village, where it picks up the B2007 at the next roundabout, and the speed limit drops again to 30 mph.
There's then a run through industrial works alongside the railway to the north of the island, where the A249 terminates at a roundabout. You have a choice of turning left to the seaport or straight on to the A250 which takes you into Sheerness proper.
The dual-carriagway Iwade bypass (from the A2 to the Kingsferry Bridge) was first put into the Government's road-building programme in 1982, with public consultation in 1985 and a preferred route announcement in 1986. The southern section, from the A2 to the M2, was programmed in 1985 and went out to consultation in 1986. A route announcement was expected in 1988, although due to various delays construction work on both improvements didn't start until the mid 1990s. The new dual carriagway section of the A249 north of the A2 opened in October 1996.
Plans for the new Sheppey Crossing and dualling of the A249 towards Queenborough were already underway in 1996, with Kent Police raising several comments about the proposed works.