03 AUG 2017

Gridlocked again - why we must be Ready on Day One

Twelve months on from last year's disaster, the roads to Dover were once again in gridlock this weekend. The A20 had queues stretching back to the Roundhill Tunnels. While on the A2 traffic jams stretched back to Lydden. Cars and lorries started to pile through Capel and Folkestone Road on the B2011.

Year after year it is the same. Last summer the traffic chaos was caused by French border officers failing to turn up for duty. This weekend adverse weather conditions and a P&O ferry breaking down led to the tailbacks. It happens all too easily and all too often – and shows that our infrastructure is too finely balanced to cope properly. The people of Dover suffer every time – and so does the nation as delays at the port costs our national economy dear.

Action is needed now. We need more investment in the roads to the Channel Ports. The A2 needs to be dualled, the M20/A20 to be expanded and the lorry park to be delivered on time. The Government needs to be better prepared for French strikes, bad weather or ageing ferries conking out.

Very soon we will also face the challenge of Brexit here at the Dover frontline. That's why I have put together a detailed report with industry experts and business leaders on the action we must take now to ensure we are ready on day one for every eventuality.

Stories in the national press this week warned that we will be hit by huge border delays and suffer more than £1bn a year in economic damage when we leave the European Union. The truth is that Brexit can be a huge success for Britain and for Dover – but only if we are prepared. At the moment the Government is not doing enough to be prepared. So I am pressing them to get a grip and do better.

That includes accelerating investment in the technology and infrastructure we need to keep trade flowing freely through our ports. With fellow MPs I have been urging the Treasury to move faster in preparing our border for Brexit. Especially to take on board that for customs, the border is a tax point - not a search point - and that with digital borders customs clearance can be managed incredibly quickly. In Singapore, for instance, clearance takes less than a minute.

We have also been urging the Department for Transport to invest in roads and infrastructure to ensure Britain is Brexit ready on day one at Dover and the Channel Ports. It is concerning the Department for Transport appears more interested in Crossrail than cross-border trade. For too long Britain has worked for big cities like London rather than the towns and regions. This has to change. We need a renaissance of the regions.

With Brexit less than two years away, we must have real investment at Dover. There are huge opportunities to increase our trade across the globe when we leave the EU. We must invest in our borders now to ensure we can boost business from day one.

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Charlie Elphicke

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