The rapid re-opening of the Dover to Folkestone rail line – completed in just nine months – is a remarkable feat of British engineering. It was a joy to once again step on board a London-bound train at Dover Priory on Monday. Commuters have had a tough time since the sea wall collapsed last Christmas. I'm delighted they no longer have the hassle of using rail replacement buses to get to work. Our fight to fix the sea wall just goes to show what can be achieved if people work together and get on with the job.
Dedicated workers from Network Rail and Costain grafted round the clock to get our rail line back on track as soon as possible. As chair of the Sea Wall Repair Task Force, my priority was to make sure there were no bureaucratic hold-ups. And the district council gave permission for 24/7 working. As a result of this teamwork, the repairs to the sea wall were completed three months ahead of schedule.
Highways England should take a close look at how we've restored the rail line – and get on with scrapping the hated 40mph limit on the A20. I have repeatedly called for the speed limit to be made variable, only being enforced when Dover TAP is in place. And last Friday I met with Highways England staff at the Western Heights roundabout to reiterate how frustrating the 40mph limit is for drivers.
Surely it's much harder to rebuild a sea wall than make a speed limit variable? But unlike the swift work of Network Rail, Highways England have spent months dawdling over the A20. Why haven't they got on with the job already and ended this misery for motorists? Drivers are sick and tired of crawling along the A20 while being tailgated by foreign lorries. Unsurprisingly, people are using alternative routes. This means more traffic on the Alkham Valley Road and driving through Capel, creating further gridlock.
I have also urged Highways England to find a way of moving the traffic lights at the Western Heights roundabout back along the A20 and away from Aycliffe. Residents should be able to enjoy a decent night's sleep free from noisy lorries blaring their horns.
The meeting with Highways England was positive, as they finally appear ready to start work. But this is way overdue. Sorting the A20 and the infuriating 40mph limit should be their number one priority.
But we can't stop there. The roads of East Kent have been starved of investment for too long. We must get on with building the M20 lorry park and we need to dual the A2. Meanwhile, Dover Harbour Board need to hurry up and complete their roadworks on Townwall Street and Snargate Street.
Thanks to great teamwork our trains are back on track. Now it's time to fix our roads.
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