The damage done to the Folkestone to Dover railway line, caused by the erosion of the sea wall along the coastal stretch of the track, would appear to be far worse than was originally thought. It is important that the maintenance is carried out as swiftly as possible, working as they have to within the natural constraints of the times of low tide. I will be meeting with Network Rail this week to discuss the progress on repairing the track, but it is likely to remain closed for several months.
The rapid erosion of the seawall and railway line is the result of the loss of the shingle defences that were supposed to protect it. It is important that lessons are learnt from what has happened, and this includes why more wasn’t done to build back up the shingle defences to protect the sea wall, when it was clear that they were not going to be adequate. This is something that both I and the Dover MP Charlie Elphicke, will be following up with Network Rail, and with the Environment Agency who are responsible for our coastal defences.
From Monday this week, the new rail timetable has come into operation following the closure of the Folkestone to Dover line, and whilst the direct High Speed trains to London have been restored to Folkestone, it is with a more limited service. I have asked Southeastern trains what more can be done to improve the service for passengers travelling from the Folkestone stations, Sandling and Westenhanger. I have also asked Southeastern to give a discount on the season tickets for passengers who have been affected by these changes, and I'm pleased that they have confirmed that this will happen. Please do get in touch with me if you have any questions about this issue you would like me to put to Southeastern trains and Network Rail.
Highways England will be holding a series of exhibitions this week and next week on their proposed location for lorry parking facilities to address Operation Stack. You can find out more about these, and the consultation on their proposals online at www.gov.uk and then by searching for 'managing freight vehicles through Kent'. It is important that everyone who has been affected by Operation Stack has their say. I will also be holding a special drop in surgery at The Drum in Stanford at 2pm on 15th January to discuss the lorry park proposals, and I will be attending a public meeting that is being organised by Stanford Parish Council at 7.30pm on 22nd January at Westenhanger Castle.
The message from residents across the District was loud and clear last summer, that we need an alternative to Operation Stack that allows us to keep our roads open, even when there are large numbers of vehicles waiting to get into the Channel Tunnel or Port of Dover. We now have proposals to do this, and the funding available to deliver it. Of the two sites that have been put forward for the lorry parking area, I believe that the one to the west of Stanford is the best. Rather than creating a single holding area for 4,000 lorries in one place, it creates two parks either side of the M20, which can be directly accessed from and exited to the motorway, and are also integrated into the junction 11 services.