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Kent leaders join forces in plea for help to stop gridlock on county's roads

Leaders across Kent have joined forces to demand the government finds a long term solution to stop gridlock on the county's road when there is cross-Channel disruption.

Seven councillors, the police and crime commissioner and representatives from the Channel Tunnel operator and Visit Kent have co-signed a letter to the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps MP.

The queues at the Port of Dover last week. Picture: Barry Goodwin
The queues at the Port of Dover last week. Picture: Barry Goodwin

It states that residents and local businesses are bearing the brunt of gridlocked roads and a permanent solution is needed.

Folkestone and Hythe's District Council leader Cllr David Monk is the latest to sign.

He said: “This situation clearly cannot be tolerated, every time there is a holiday rush, severe weather conditions, customs delays or strike action.

"A comprehensive plan to alleviate the traffic congestion must be compiled.

“We have co-signed a letter to the government demanding that they invest in east Kent’s road network including finishing the dualling of the A2, sorting out Brenley Corner, developing a nationwide network of lorry parks and creating “smart” travel corridors and efficient borders using new technology.”

Cllr David Monk
Cllr David Monk

While the leaders accept a solution may take time, they have also asked for more short-term resources so Kent Resilience Forum partners can better manage the disruption and provide welfare facilities for drivers.

Folkestone councillors have also agreed to ask representatives from Kent Resilience Forum partner organisations and the French authorities to attend a meeting of the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

They will be requested to explain what is being done to avoid the impact on local communities of traffic congestion at the Channel crossings.

The letter comes as drivers are being warned to expect more severe congestion this weekend with the AA issuing its first-ever amber traffic warning.

Dover and Folkestone are likely to bear the brunt of the congestion, which is set to peak between 11am and 3pm tomorrow.

Long waits to cross the channel are expected to continue. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Long waits to cross the channel are expected to continue. Picture: Barry Goodwin

Tens of thousands of families saw the start of their cross-Channel journeys ruined last weekend as the roads approaching Dover were gridlocked, leading to delays of several hours.

This was blamed on a shortage of French border officers and a serious crash on the M20.

Residents in east Kent are encouraged to ensure that they have sufficient supplies of food and medicines before this weekend as there could be a repeat of last weekend’s traffic problems.

They are also encouraged to check on vulnerable neighbours.

The full letter signed by leaders reads: "It was another frustrating weekend last week for residents and businesses in Dover, Folkestone and Ashford, cut-off from the rest of the world by gridlocked local roads, causing yet more damage to both the local and national economy.

HGV drivers were stuck in queues on the M20 last weekend
HGV drivers were stuck in queues on the M20 last weekend

"The impact is also felt by neighbouring areas, such as Canterbury and Thanet, with serious consequences for Kent's vitally important tourism and visitor economy.

"Thousands of tourists and freight operators experienced hellish journeys through Kent, with increasing needs for critical aid and welfare.

"But this is a bigger problem than Dover and Folkestone. It's damaging the whole UK economy and Britain's global reputation.

"As a nation we are reliant on highly efficient and effective cross-Channel services; nowhere can match the capacity of the short straits' crossings from Dover and Folkestone and which remain the first choice for both domestic and international travellers and hauliers.

"They are an essential part of our national infrastructure and need to be acknowledged as such.

"But the system is fragile. Any disruption to services quickly escalates out of control. And it is local communities, businesses and tourism across Kent that bear the brunt of these increasingly frequent events.

"If we want to enjoy holidays abroad, export our goods, and welcome in-bound tourists and trade in return, the government must act and produce a long-term solution.

"To invest in Kent's road network, including but not limited to, dualling the A2 from Lydden to Dover along with improvements to Brenley Corner, and the Whitfield and Duke of York roundabouts.

"To develop additional border facilities supported by a network of lorry parks throughout the country.

"To create "smart" travel corridors and efficient borders through new technology.

The port is expecting to welcome 140,000 passengers between Thursday and Sunday. Picture: Barry Goodwin
The port is expecting to welcome 140,000 passengers between Thursday and Sunday. Picture: Barry Goodwin

"To improve access and capacity for rail freight and high-speed passenger trains.

"This will take time. So, in the interim, we are calling on the government to provide greater resources to the Kent Resilience Forum and its partners so they can more effectively manage disruption on Kent's roads and extend welfare facilities.

"The challenge will just get bigger if the government ignores the issue.

"Next year's planned introduction of the Entry Exit System which requires biometric checks is set to put our County at the forefront all over again.

"The clock is ticking and the time to act is now!"

Signatories include Cllr Trevor Bartlett, Leader of Dover District Council, Cllr David Monk, Leader of Folkestone & Hythe District Council, Cllr Gerry Clarkson, Leader of Ashford Borough Council, Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding, Leader of Canterbury City Council, Cllr Mike Baldock, Leader of Swale Borough Council, Cllr Reece Pugh, Deputy Leader of Thanet District Council, Cllr Roger Gough, Leader of Kent County Council, Matthew Scott, Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, Deirdre Wells OBE, Chief Executive, Visit Kent and John Keefe, Director of Public Affairs, Getlink (Eurotunnnel).

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