M20 to remain closed overnight after digger on lorry brings down footbridge
A stretch of the M20 motorway will remain closed overnight as the clear-up continues after a footbridge crashed onto the carriageway.
Kent Police confirmed that the bridge was brought down when a digger being transported on the back of a lorry collided with the bridge between junctions three and four around midday on Saturday.
A male motorcyclist aged in his 50s was taken to hospital in Tunbridge Wells with suspected broken ribs following the incident, and the driver of the lorry was treated for shock at the scene.
A major incident was declared on the main route to the Channel Tunnel and the Port of Dover, with images on social media showing remains of the footbridge and damaged vehicles on the carriageway.
Alex Magaisa was driving past the lorry involved just as the bridge collapsed, with his wife and two young sons in the car. They were on their way to Gatwick Airport to catch a flight to Belfast to see family for the bank holiday weekend.
The University of Kent lecturer, 41, said: "My instinct was just to drive through. My wife saw the bridge falling and there was a big noise. I had to manoeuvre through the debris.
"We stopped afterwards for about 30 minutes, and there was another car with a family behind us. Luckily no-one seemed to have been hurt.
"It was a big shock. It's only just starting to sink in now what might have happened. We were right in the line of fire and we could have been crushed."
An estimated 13 million drivers are expected to take to the road for a holiday or an outing between Friday and Monday, according to the AA.
Saturday was expected to be the busiest single day for motorists embarking on leisure journeys, with 10 million drivers predicted to be getting behind the wheel.
Andy Sunnucks, 24, who also saw the incident, said: "We were about 15 cars back on the same carriageway as the collision.
"It looked like a lorry had jackknifed, and I could see half the bridge was missing. We went to have a look and the back end of the lorry was in pieces."
The graphic designer, a passenger travelling from Maidstone to Sevenoaks, said: "The motorcyclist was laying down underneath his bike."
Highways England confirmed that the M20 was closed eastbound between junctions one and four, and westbound between junctions four and two as police continued to manage the scene.
The M26 in Kent was also closed eastbound between the M25 junction 25 and the M20 J3 to "assist management of traffic" following the incident.
Drivers travelling clockwise on the M25 to Dover have been advised to use junction J2 to join the A2 and M2.
Traffic leaving London on the A20 eastbound is being diverted to join the M25 at junction three (Swanley), and traffic approaching on the M20 westbound is advised to exit at junction four and follow signs to join the M26 westbound at junction 2A or the M20 westbound at junction two.
Highways England said that the part of the M20 between junctions two and four will remain closed until at least midday on Sunday, but that delays have now shortened and tailbacks have reduced. The M26 is also likely to stay closed until the area is completely cleared.
South east operations manager, Gary Coleman, said crews would be working through the night to clean up the scene.
He said: "We are facing a real challenge to lift two HGVs and a motorbike clear of the scene and deal with all of the rubble from the collapsed bridge strewn across both carriageways.
"There is also the issue of the remaining part of the footbridge, which is still in place over the coast-bound side of the motorway.
"We are doing everything we can to safely reopen the motorway, but we'd ask drivers to please bear with us as this is a complex operation and it will take time and skill to complete. "