The failure of the sea wall at Dover has caused real challenges for our community. Rail journeys are longer. Travellers either have to go by bus to Folkestone or take a shuttle to Ramsgate.
Last week I met again with Network Rail and Southeastern Trains to hear about their plans to repair the railway and make sure people can get to work on time. It's clear that repairing the sea wall will be a big job and will take months to restore.
Network Rail are working on repairs and should be able to provide an estimate on how long the repairs will take in the next couple of weeks. Significantly they have successfully put in place "rock armour" to protect the existing sea wall. This will hopefully avoid the delay that would have been seen with a complete failure.
While the sea wall is being repaired, it is important to ensure that rail users can get to their destinations. It is particularly important that commuters can get to to their work places on time. So, from the outset, I have pressed Network Rail and Southeastern Trains to ensure that services are re-routed. Rail replacement buses now go direct from Dover, Deal and Walmer to Folkestone. At Folkestone the service joins with the fast train. There is also a shuttle service between Dover and Ramsgate via Deal. At Ramsgate the service joins with the fast train. Car parking at Folkestone West has also been made free.
There have however been challenges in the first week. First, communications with passengers have been poor. Secondly, the timing of replacement bus services, and indeed the actual arrival of some buses, was problematic. Thirdly, there were problems with the connection of the shuttle service to the fast train at Ramsgate.
I raised these problems with Southeastern when I met with them. They have been working to improve communications - especially on board communications where trains are late running. The problems with the bus service have also seen improvements. Buses now show up and they are making great effort to ensure that connections are maintained. Finally, delays on the shuttle service are being addressed and they are working to ensure the connection at Ramsgate is held.
Many rail users have asked if the Minster Loop can be used so services can go direct from Deal to Canterbury West. I have pressed Southeastern on this option and I know they are looking at what is possible.
I am seeking to hold a public meeting with Southeastern, Network Rail and commuters so travellers will be able to quiz rail chiefs directly. It is important everyone can share ideas on how services can be improved to make travelling easier while the sea wall is being repaired. I am doing all I can to ensure the sea wall at Dover is repaired as soon as possible and that the rerouted services are as fast as possible.
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