This week I held meetings on two vital transport projects for our area: the dualling of the A2 through to Dover and the return on all day high speed train connections through to Walmer, Martin Mill and Deal.
As we have moved through the pandemic, the Government has hugely subsidised high speed rail to make sure that there are peak services all the way through to Deal. In Parliament, in meetings with Ministers and in discussions with Southeastern themselves, I have been pressing for more services and better connections where a change of train is required. Discussions I had last week with senior management at the rail company have been positive. I am hopeful that before too long we will see improved rail services, and extended high speed services during the day. The extension of the services will be ‘ahead of demand’. Which is one of those phrases that means they are putting on trains that are nowhere near full. I’ve been doing my bit to press for more trains. We all need to play our part in using the train services where we can so we can show that, in spite of predicted changes to working patterns, the need for the excellent high speed service remains as strong as before the pandemic.
The A2 upgrade programme has taken a lot of work over many years to get to this stage. The next few months are critical as plans for the possible routes for it are now being drawn up by National Highways (the new name for Highways England), together with the traffic modelling work to support the bid and recommendations for when this might be considered for building. This road project is really important for the future of our community, so the Port of Dover, Dover District Council, Kent County Council teams and me and my team are all working together so we can make the best case for it. The work considers ways to reduce the local pressure at the Whitfield roundabout and considers how we can deliver our local housing and business growth in a way that is sustainable too.
This follows from last week’s announcement of the water flooding taskforce I have set up with Southern Water to look at sources and solutions for sewage and other flooding that has troubled areas including Deal and Shepherdswell for far too long. For strong and resilient communities that can grow successfully and sustainably, we need the infrastructure to go along with that. Be that water, transport, rail or broadband.
Turning to broadband. Over recent months there has been a huge programme of investment in new local very fast broadband. There still remain some ‘not spots’ where fast broadband is hard to get. We are a well-connected community – for rail, road and sea. I want to make sure we are digitally well-connected too.