The situation at Dover in recent days has been a disgrace. Scenes of children on coaches, crying, starving hungry after hours of delays, are entirely unacceptable. Yet it seems every Easter and Summer holiday getaway season there is chaos on Kent roads, with travellers suffering delays just like this. It’s got to stop. These problems are avoidable. They should have been dealt with years ago by the French and UK Governments.
The impact on the town of Dover has been very serious. Shopkeepers got in touch with me about being unable to get to their shops. Other local residents said they were made late for work. Aycliffe has been hard hit again with residents unable to sleep properly as queuing lorry drivers kept their engines running and beep their horns all night long.
As your MP, I tirelessly campaign for the solutions and investment needed to put an end to these problems once and for all. It’s not a Brexit issue, it’s been the same for many years. Problems caused by weather, strikes, peak holiday periods – and French border controls. Back in 2016 some 250,000 people were stuck in days of tailbacks due to French border checks. 2015 and 2022 saw chaos caused by French border control failings and French strikes. Added to which, weather and surges in the volume of traffic, especially at holiday time, make for very severe disruption to our community.
Long-term investment is needed to sort things out. In 2015, £250 million was pledged for lorry parks. No lorry parks have been built yet. There are a number of possible sites, including making better use of Sevington, the border control point at Ashford. Coach parking is also badly needed away from the port to manage any delays to check-ins and ensure that there are better facilities for youngsters and others crossing the Channel by coach. I’ve been working with the Port to look at solutions for better lorry, coach and tourist parking.
At last month’s French Summit, the UK and French transport ministers agreed they would work together to avoid delays at the border. They need to get on with it and make sure that the right technology and border officer numbers are in place to speed people through the port.
There has been £45 million of investment awarded to Dover recently in order to make improvements at the port and local roads to Keep Dover Clear from congestion. That money needs to get out of Treasury coffers and onto the ground, so that we can see the benefits of this extra spending commitment as soon as possible.
This Easter the situation has been unfair on holidaymakers trying to get away, as well as local residents and businesses. We cannot carry on like this. Work on improvements needs to start right now – if we are to avoid yet more chaos during the Summer getaway.