We have seen a big improvement to Kent’s roads over the last ten days since the lifting of the Operation Stack restrictions. This is mainly a result of the improved situation in Calais where there have been far fewer disturbances to the services through the Channel Tunnel or from the Port of Calais, than in previous weeks. Thankfully the industrial action by the DFDS ferry workers has not created again the levels of disruption and damage that was seen last month. There have also been significant improvements to the security situation in the Calais area.
The new high security fencing supplied by the British government, in addition to a large increase in the number of French police officers patrolling the Channel Tunnel terminal at Coquelles, has made it much harder for migrants to break in. The action of migrants trying to illegally enter the tunnel has led to loss of life and massive disruption to services this summer. It has to stop, and it appears that the new arrangements have gone a long way towards achieving this.
However, we know that there will always be a chance that there could be further disturbances to services this summer, which is why the respite over the last week has been used to prepare better contingency plans should Operation Stack be needed again. Manston Airport is now ready to receive lorries for parking if it is needed. This site is able to provide off road, hard standing parking for up to 2,000 trucks, which takes significant pressure off of the M20. The Department for Transport is also working up plans to allow the continuous movement of traffic in both directions on the M20 even when operation stack is in place. For the longer term, there are proposals to create permanent lorry parks at strategic locations on the motorway network in Kent. It is absolutely clear that we cannot go back to Operation Stack as it has been implemented in the past.
Last Saturday I was in Folkestone for the opening of the newly restored section of the harbour arm. It was fantastic to see so many people out enjoying a warm summers day in the town on this excellent new attraction. The Folkestone Harbour company has invested £millions to lovingly restore this magnificent piece of Edwardian infrastructure. You can now, once more, walk out to the lighthouse and enjoy the various ‘pop-up’ bars and cafes, and live music along the way. Step Short, the Folkestone First World War centenary charity has also recreated the café on the harbour arm, where the Jeffrey sisters gave out tea and cake to the men boarding the ships to take them to France and the western front. You can also sign the visitor’s book in the café, following the tradition that was established on the same site, 100 years ago. The original visitor books, signed by statesmen and service personnel of all ranks can be viewed at the Step Short website, www.stepshort.co.uk
The harbour arm will be open from Friday through to Sunday each week this month. I would like to send my congratulations as well to Diane Dever who has arranged the entertainments and attractions on the harbour arm for this summer.