Last week's traffic chaos highlighted the decades of under investment in the roads and transport infrastructure of East Kent. Yet it also highlighted that improvements are needed in how border controls are managed too.
It's clear we need more investment on our roads and port infrastructure. It would cost less than £500 million to have motorways to Dover, upgrade port infrastructure and dig a tunnel. Put this alongside the £1 Billion cost of last year's disruption and the case is clear. Add to that the gridlock Dover suffers all the time and the fiasco of families going on holiday suffering 14 hour plus tailbacks last week and it's obvious this is a priority. Take into account the likelihood that this will all keep happening as port traffic continues to have double digit annual growth and it's clear this is a necessity.
So what is the response on the Department for Transport? Their proposal is Operation Perch. This would institutionalise last week's fiasco with added toilet facilities. Dover would be cut off and local ambulances and emergency services would be hampered. It is a bad plan and risks lives. What the Department for Transport should be doing is to use Operation Stack on the M20 for lorries as that is tried and tested. The Dover TAP system is not suitable for a form of Operation Stack. The TAP system is intended to keep gridlock out of Dover and should continue to be used for that. The A20 is simply not fit for purpose for a permanent queuing system. Operation Perch is not the answer.
France's response to the terror atrocities she has suffered has been to declare a state of emergency. French Border checks have been stepped up. However there are simply not enough French border officers to go round. This left France's border officials overstretched. So booths went unmanned, long queues built up.
We already have close co-operation and information sharing with France. There is a strong case for Britain and France to deepen our joint border controls and security co-operation. So when French border officers are thin on the ground at Dover, British border officers should be able to help. Next week, when there is a rush back from Calais, French border officers should be able to help British border officers when queues build up. It is in the interest of everyone that tourists and truckers are sped through the ports to their destinations – particularly Calais and Dover.
Those lorries travelling through the port are the lifeblood of our international trade. Traffic fiascos at Dover don't just hurt the town – they hurt the national economy. This is why our roads, infrastructure and border security need greater investment to cope with the annual increases in port traffic.
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