M2 (Rochester to Faversham)

By Mike Lowe

The M2 runs from the A2 to the A2. This isn't as illogical as it sounds - it can be best thought of as a bypass of the old A2 which goes through the Medway towns and then Sittingbourne and Faversham on its way to Canterbury. M2 starts from the A2 near Stroud. At this point the road goes from three lanes each way to two as it becomes a motorway - I think it is unusual for a motorway to be fewer lanes than the A-road it connects to but there you go. At this point they have just completed work on the new A228 Wainscott bypass but after several years of ever-present roadworks they are not finished here yet. The next project [as of early 2001] is the Channel Tunnel High Speed rail link (CTRL) and concurrently with that the M2 at this point is being widened to 3 lanes each direction all the way to the Gillingham turn off (J4). At some steeper parts there will be 4 lanes in one direction to provide slow vehicles with a climbing lane.

The road sweeps downhill from J1 to the Medway bridge. The actual bridge has been lined with cones for as long as I can remember, to no discernible purpose. Currently two more river crossings are in the process of being built, one for rail and one for London-bound traffic. The road passes J2 where the slip roads and junction are currently being remodelled, and then once over the Bridge curves around a large hill. At this point the London-bound carriageway is several metres lower than the coastbound one. To the south can be seen the extensive works for the CTRL and the new London-bound carriageway, as well as a Kart track (Buckmore Park I think). Not sure of the long term outlook for this track. (The new coastbound carriageway is to be built on the site of the existing road.) The intermittent 50mph limit roadwork/contra-flow sections continue on and off all the way up to J4. J3 is the Bluebell hill turn off and links with the A228 dual carriageway to Maidstone and Rochester. This complex double junction is also being made into a more logical layout - it is quite confusing at the moment and you need to have your wits about you to avoid ending up going in the opposite direction to the one you intended, especially if you are trying to join the M2.

The landscape flattens out after this point as you head to J4 for Gillingham. This roundabout junction is the only ``proper'' roundabout junction on the M2 except J7 at the end of the motorway (all the others are semi-cloverleaf type or just plain convoluted) and has peak time lights. You then soon come to the only services on this motorway, Farthing Corner, where they have a petrol pump layout which always annoys me on the rare occasions I stop there. The next junction J5 links with the A249 which goes to Maidstone and the M20. This can be quite an exciting road, a fast dual carriageway through forest, with several breaks in the central reservation which means that you need to be more alert than on a motorway at equivalent speeds, as cars are liable to pull out into the fast lane without signaling and sit there before pulling off into the center reservation and crossing the other carriageway. There is also Detling Corner which can be quite an adrenaline rush heading towards Maidstone but also has seen some spectacular smashes over the years I believe. It arguably should be smoothed out and made safer; it's a steep hill with quite twisty turns. Anyway back at J5, the A249 in the other direction (north) was recently dualled and takes you to Sittingbourne or to the Isle of Sheppey. Back on the M2, there is now a large gap before the next (penultimate) junction. By now you are well out in the sticks and traffic should have thinned out quite a lot. J6 is pretty insignificant. J7 is where the motorway ends at a fly-under; if you stay on it you join the A299 to Thanet which is a high-standard dual carriageway with grade separated junctions. If you leave the motorway here you can join the A2 dual carriageway to Canterbury and then Dover, or go into Faversham. As the motorway approaches J7 there are signs indicating that you should be in the left lane for the A2 and the right hand lane for A299. Theoretically this should improve safety, but in fact results in near misses as people turning left (for the A2) stay in the right lane as long as possible in order to overtake slower traffic, then cut in dangerously, while slower vehicles (normally driven by nervous drivers) heading for the A299 move across into the right lane too early (to avoid being boxed in I suppose) and then create a moving obstacle for faster traffic.

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