Making sure that we Keep Dover Clear and ensure traffic flows smoothly on our roads is a key priority for me. Never more so than during the peak Easter and Summer getaway periods.
For many, many, years there have been traffic problems during peak periods. Being a border town, it is inevitable that if there are issues with weather, French border controls or French strikes, there will be a knock-on impact to our area. That’s always been the case. Those who are seizing upon the Easter heavy traffic as “because of Brexit” are, in truth, more interested in fighting yesterday’s battles than they are in the future for our community.
In Dover, we have been living with holiday traffic congestion since long before we left the EU. Indeed, the three most severe problems happened before we fully and finally left the EU on 1 January 2021. Back in 2015 traffic chaos was caused by French strikes. In 2016, some 250,000 people were stuck in days of tailbacks due to French border checks. It was the same in Christmas 2020, when the French closed the border and the army were finally called in to clear the lorries from our town.
The bottom line is that it is completely unacceptable that when there are border issues at the Port serious disruption is caused to our town, businesses and community. The infrastructure needs to be stronger to deal with border-related issues when they occur. Especially when holiday surges are entirely predictable. Easter, after all, comes round every year. So for that matter does Summer.
This is why after the problems a couple of weeks ago, I pressed every responsible party to ensure there should not be a repeat over the long Easter weekend. From senior officers at Kent Police to the Kent Resilience Forum, from Port Chiefs to the Transport Secretary. I was robust and clear that they needed to look after Dover better – to put in active traffic control measures locally and ensure that French Border Officers were in full attendance to meet the expected traffic volumes.
As a result, for Easter weekend, things were better. However, it should not be like this. We should not have to be on tenterhooks wondering if there is going to be another mess at the Port and on our local roads. That’s why I fought so hard for our recent £45 million award for improvements at the port and local roads to Keep Dover Clear from congestion. That money needs to get out of the Treasury and onto the ground as soon as possible. It’s why I am pressing for better lorry parking, coach and check-in facilities. As well as asking the Transport Secretary to make sure that he and his French counterpart agree to newer technology and greater border officer numbers to speed people through the port and on to their holidays.