We must invest in the roads to Dover to make the Lower Thames Crossing a success. That was a message I made loud and clear to Highways England's project director Tim Jones at a meeting at the Port of Dover.
I said it was vital to fully dual the A2 all the way to Dover in order to handle the increased level of traffic when the £6 billion crossing is complete. Two three-lane tunnels under the Thames will link the M25, near North Ockendon, Essex, with the A2 near Shorne, Kent. The planned opening date is 2027.
At the meeting at Harbour House, the port's head of policy and communications Richard Christian underlined just how much traffic travels through Dover's docks. There are 60 arrivals and 60 departures of 12 different ferries every day, carrying up to 10,000 trucks in total – which lined up in a queue would be 180km in length.
The port handles up to 500 trucks an hour and has space for less than 1,500. Combined, Dover and Eurotunnel handle 30% of the UK's trade in goods – around £210 billion. Mr Christian suggested that if the A2 was fully dualled, a second 'Dover TAP' scheme could be used on this route. Like the current TAP scheme on the A20, it would involve queueing lorries in the left-hand lane when there are delays at the port. Mr Christian said this would cost around £65-70 million compared to the £250 million quoted for the axed Stanford lorry park plan.
But I warned against turning the roads to Dover into "one long rolling lorry park". We've been saying for years that we need to dual the A2. The previous Labour government axed the plans but we've been working relentlessly to get the scheme back on the table. With the increased traffic expected when the Lower Thames Crossing opens, dualling the A2 is more vital than ever. Yet this alone is not enough. I'm concerned that a new 'A2 Dover TAP', along with the proposed 'contraflow' on the M20, would turn the roads to Dover into one long rolling lorry park. Our town would be cut off from the rest of Kent.
That's why it's just common sense to build more lorry parking facilities, like at the Stop 24 services off junction 11 on the M20. Brenley Corner on the A2 is another option. And we need a wider network of lorry parks up and down the country. This is a national priority. It's time we had real investment in Kent's roads.
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