Leaving Europe at the end of the year will mean different controls at the Port. It is vital that the local traffic management systems are robust and effective to manage that. I have been working with the District Council leader, Cllr Trevor Bartlett, Kent County Council leader, Cllr Roger Gough, and Cllr Nigel Collor on ‘Keep Dover Clear’ preparations. I have raised ‘Keep Dover Clear’ with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, and the Transition Transport Minister, Rachel Maclean who I met in Dover recently when she came to see our area’s needs first-hand.
The importance of this was brought front and centre last week, when Dover went into complete traffic gridlock. Many residents were caught up in the middle of it, not just in Dover town centre but to Folkestone, Ashford, Deal and Canterbury. Residents unable to get to school, work, health appointments, shopping, or visit their friends and family.
So what caused the traffic mayhem? Traffic delays started at the Port. A vehicle to vehicle search was ordered by the Home Office at ports, including Dover. I understand that the alert was triggered by a serious terrorism-related security threat. The Home Office have a critical job to keep the country safe. They need to do whatever is needed, including vehicle and people searches at the Port.
When there are traffic delays at the Port it is important that there are traffic contingency plans to stop Dover going into gridlock, so that local residents can get out and about to work, to go to school, shops and access healthcare.
These contingency plans have been hard fought for. The two most important are called ‘Tap’ and ‘Stack’. This is the system where lorries are queued on the slow lane of the A20 coming into Dover from Folkestone. Managing the lorries, a few at a time straight into the Port, ensures main and side roads are not blocked up and local traffic can flow freely. A third system on the M20, ‘Brock’, is being put in place for the end of the year. Last week ‘Stack’ was triggered too late, compounding the traffic problems. I am pleased to see that lessons were learned from last week and that Operation Stack were stepped up yesterday, quickly, in response to French industrial action.
However, even when Tap and Stack are operating well, some lorries don’t stick to the plan. They cut through the town. Many use the M2/A2, adding to the already congested Whitfield and Duke of York roundabouts. If lorries do cut through, they are not turned away from boarding at the Port. That is something I have been in talks with the Port about for some time. Lorries who jump queues and don’t stick to the traffic management routes should be penalised, not allowed first on the ferry. These systems are designed to keep our local roads clear. I will continue working hard on our traffic plans to make sure free-flowing traffic in our Dover area is prioritised for residents.