As this year has gone on, things have been looking brighter and brighter. The vaccine rollout has been a massive success. The virus has been in retreat. Traffic volumes at the Port of Dover have been surging since the start of the year. Best of all, Britain is set to enjoy the fastest growth in over 50 years.
We now need to make sure we are ready to make the most of it. Nowhere does this matter more than in our transport connections. We may be recovering from the pandemic, yet much has been changed by it. Not least working patterns where people have been working from home here in Dover and Deal. As workplaces re-open, workers may only go to their workplace two or three times a week while working from home one or two days. Yet our rail services operate on the basis of monthly and annual season tickets for commuters. What rail passengers increasingly need is a ‘carnet’ type system, where regular travellers can purchase a book of cheaper tickets for use over the year. A more flexible form of ticketing that would be a welcome boost for part-time workers too, who too often end up paying more for their travel to work.
While we were all locked down, train services were reduced to reflect lower demand. This has also cut costs, as Government stepped in with millions of pounds of funding to keep trains going, including the peak fast train services through to Deal. As the recovery takes hold, I am campaigning for our full high-speed services to be restored as soon as possible. It was so hard fought to get them in the first place. Rail tickets should be more flexible and affordable, with full train timetables to encourage the use of public transport.
Trains are not the only type of infrastructure needed to help us reap the full benefits of the recovery. The importance of reliable and affordable broadband has been highlighted over the last year. I have been working on this for some time and have secured commitments in the Openreach programme. They now need to be delivered on the ground.
We need to see much needed road investment brought forward too. As the Brock barriers are removed from the M20, I want to see faster progress on the options for the A2 dualling and roundabout improvements from Lydden to Whitfield to Duke of York right into the Port.
As we recover, we can be increasingly optimistic. There is a feeling that we have turned a corner. We look more and more to the future we can make. Here in Dover & Deal I am determined to make the case so we get the road, rail and broadband infrastructure needed. To make the most of things now and in the years to come.