Transport has always been important to our community, with much of Britain's international trade shifted through our port. The ferry companies are major employers for people living in our community. We have major roads in the A20 and A2 and rail connections to London that get us about and to work.
Transport is our strength as well as a major source of employment. Yet it also presents real challenges, particularly at the moment. We are seeing through port reform with the appointment of community directors. Increasing port traffic is placing greater pressure than ever on our roads. We had problems with the A20/M20 being at a standstill last summer during the Sea France strike. We frequently suffer gridlock in Dover. Our roads are filthy and disgusting. On top of this, the Dover sea wall failed, taking our major rail line out of service.
This week I met with the Transport Secretary to press the importance of making improvements. The port and ferry companies, along with the Highways Agency, need to take more responsibility for the rubbish on our roads. They need to understand that routing port traffic via the A2 causes tailbacks on the Jubilee Way and cuts Dover off. This makes it hard for people to go about their business and get to work. Port traffic should go only via the A20/M20.
The Operation Stack lorry parks on the M20 will make a real difference. Yet they will take two years to build. So we need to make sure the TAP system works properly to stop Dover suffering gridlock and ensure the TAP speed limit is made variable.
The situation is made worse by the port undertaking major works to change the roundabouts in Dover to traffic light junctions. The Department for Transport and Highways officers have asked the port to have a plan to avoid gridlock in Dover at peak times like over Easter. This matters as the Easter period will be a real problem if not properly managed. This will be a major test for the port management.
Finally the sea wall railway line repair is a big project. It will cost a very serious amount of money. It seems likely that the railway line will take until the end of this year to repair and bring back into service. Network Rail should be in a position to say clearly exactly how long very soon. This has been very hard for rail passengers.
At the moment we have big transport challenges. Yet the railway line will be repaired and the lorry parks will be built. This will be a collective investment of up to £350 million to improve transport in our community. Once these works are complete we should have a secure rail line and see the back of Operation Stack. With port reform and better collaborative working to clean up our roads, this should mean we will have stronger and more reliable transport networks for Dover and Deal over the longer term.
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