Kent leaders have joined forces to demand the government find a long-term solution to end the traffic jam on the county’s road in the event of cross-Channel disruption.
Seven councillors, the police and crime commissioner and representatives of the Channel Tunnel operator and Visit Kent co-signed a letter to the Secretary of State for Transport, MP Grant Shapps.
He says local residents and businesses are bearing the brunt of the blocked roads and a permanent solution is needed.
The leader of Folkestone and Hythe District Council, Cllr David Monk, is the latest to sign.
He said: “This situation clearly cannot be tolerated, whenever there is a holiday rush, extreme weather, customs delays or strikes.
“A comprehensive plan to reduce traffic congestion must be developed.
“We have co-signed a letter to the Government demanding they invest in the East Kent road network, including completing the A2 twining, sorting Brenley Corner, developing a national network of truck parks and creating “smart” travel corridors and efficient borders. using new technologies.
While leaders accept that a solution may take time, they have also called for more short-term resources so that Kent Resilience Forum partners can better manage disruptions and provide welfare facilities for drivers.
Folkestone councilors have also agreed to ask representatives of Kent Resilience Forum partner organizations and French authorities to attend a meeting of the Council’s Oversight and Review Committee.
They will be asked to explain what is being done to avoid the impact on local communities of traffic congestion at Channel crossings.
The letter comes as drivers are 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 expected to peak between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. tomorrow.
Tens of thousands of families saw the start of their cross-Channel journey ruined last weekend as roads approaching Dover were blocked, leading to hours-long delays.
This was blamed on a shortage of French border agents and a serious accident on the M20.
East Kent residents are encouraged to ensure they have enough food and medicine before this weekend as the traffic problems from last weekend could be repeated.
They are also encouraged to watch out for vulnerable neighbors.
The full letter signed by the 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 blocked local roads, causing further more damage to both the local and national economy.
“The impact is also felt by neighboring areas, such as Canterbury and Thanet, with serious consequences for tourism and the vitally important visitor economy for Kent.
“Thousands of tourists and freight operators have experienced hellish journeys across Kent, with growing needs for essential aid and welfare.
“But it’s a bigger problem than Dover and Folkestone. It hurts the whole UK economy and hurts Britain’s global reputation.
“As a nation, we depend on highly efficient and effective cross-Channel services; nowhere can match the capacity of the crossings of the short Straits of Dover and Folkestone and which remain the first choice for domestic and international travelers and carriers.
“They are an essential part of our national infrastructure and should be recognized as such.
“But the system is fragile. Any disruption to services quickly spirals 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 vacation abroad, export our goods and welcome tourists and trade back, the government must act and come up with a long-term solution.
“Investing in Kent’s road network, including but not limited to the doubling of the A2 from Lydden to Dover as well as improvements to Brenley Corner and the Whitfield and Duke of York roundabouts.
“Develop additional border facilities supported by a network of truck parking lots across the country.
“Creating ‘smart’ travel corridors and efficient borders through new technologies.
“Improving access and capacity for rail freight trains and high-speed passenger trains.
“This will take time. So in the meantime, we are calling on the government to provide more resources to the Kent Resilience Forum and its partners so that they can more effectively manage disruption on Kent’s roads and expand the facilities of welfare.
“The challenge will only get worse if the government ignores the problem.
“Next year’s planned introduction of the entry and exit system, which requires biometric checks, should put our county back in the forefront.
“The clock is ticking and it’s time to act!”
Signatories include Cllr Trevor Bartlett, Leader of Dover District Council, Cllr David Monk, Leader of Folkestone and 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, Commissioner for Kent Police and Crime, Deirdre Wells OBE, Managing Director, Visit Kent and John Keefe, Director of Public Affairs, Getlink (Eurotunnel).