Key industry, local government, parliamentary and transport representatives have called for urgent joined-up thinking over road transport investment to secure the key cross-Channel gateway linking the UK largest trading partner, the European Union, with the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine.
The Lower Thames Crossing is an essential long-term investment in better connecting economic activity across the UK with Europe. However, with the urgency of maintaining traffic and trade fluidity in the context of Brexit, it is vital that other complementary investments are made as soon as possible in order that they support the role of the Lower Thames Crossing, but also deliver early and enhanced resilience in the transport of goods via the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel.
The Lower Thames Crossing is cited within the Department for Transport’s recent Port Connectivity Study, which stated that while ports continue to invest to ensure their role in the supply chain is an efficient one, this must be combined with effective hinterland links in order for a port to maximise its potential.
It is in this context that the Port of Dover, the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) and local authorities are calling for urgent consideration of A2 dualling for several miles between Lydden and Dover in order to ensure that the port can keep traffic flowing beyond the dock gate.
Richard Christian, Head of Policy and Communications at the Port of Dover said: “The Port of Dover and Eurotunnel together handle around a third of the UK’s trade in goods – some £210 billion by value. Half of our freight traffic is heading beyond London to support economic activity in the Midlands and North of England, and two thirds of Irish exporters use the UK land bridge to get goods to Europe via the Channel ports.
“Our cross-Channel corridor provides pan-European just-in-time supply chains with the efficiency and fluidity needed by British, Irish and European farmers, traders and manufacturers, as well as ordinary citizens.
“There is no substitutable capacity elsewhere that can handle the type and volume of goods that Dover does. For the sake of our national economy, it is vital that fluidity at Dover and throughout the supply chain is maintained. This means not only keeping border checks to a minimum and away from the physical border, but also by bringing forward targeted road investment to key trading gateways such as A2 dualling to Dover linked to the Lower Thames Crossing which we strongly support. Such investments can be further supported by having ‘trade’ hardwired into the assessment processes concerning public infrastructure investment decisions.”
Christian Brodie, Chairman of the SELEP, said: “Investing in infrastructure to connect the economically vital ports in our area, whether its Dover, Eurotunnel, Newhaven or Tilbury, is vital to ensure our businesses can still efficiently get their goods to market.
“No country would accept a single carriageway leading to its busiest port, which is the situation we have here in Kent. The dualling of the A2 at Lydden, long called for by Kent County Council and Dover District Council, is imperative in helping secure the growth everybody wants as the country prepares for Brexit.
“The case for a relatively small investment in dualling is a compelling one. It would improve the strategic road network and at the same time reinforce the resilience of Dover if it was necessary to hold lorries away from the port in the event of Operation Stack being implemented.”
Tim Jones, Lower Thames Crossing Project Director, said: “There is a vital relationship between the UK’s ports and the strategic road network. The Port of Dover is one of the country’s key gateways to the world but the current road connections between Kent and Essex act as a barrier between the south east and the rest of the country.
“The Lower Thames Crossing offers a once in a generation opportunity to improve connectivity across the region and we are working closely with the Port of Dover and other key partners as we develop our plans.”