Last Friday I was the guest of Tim Waggott, the Folkestone resident who is Chief Executive of the Port of Dover, to visit the Harbour board and to see their plans for the future. It was great to see the port busy, and running smoothly, processing as it does five million vehicles and thirteen million passengers a year. The Port is also coping well with the new exit checks being enforced as people leave the United Kingdom, and is planning to invest more in the facilities available for its passengers.
The Port of Dover, like Eurotunnel, is facing increasing levels of traffic, with growing levels of trade reflecting the strengthening of our economy. This trend is only going to continue, which means that we have to plan now for the major infrastructure that both the Port and the Tunnel will need for the future. In this parliament we should see the final decision and go ahead for a third Thames crossing linking Kent and Essex, and with it the completion of the dualling of the M2/A2 route to Dover. This will be the most significant investment in infrastructure for Kent since the completion of the Channel Tunnel rail link, and will make it much easier to manage traffic through the county. This investment also reflects the fact that both the Port and the Tunnel are major pieces of national infrastructure.
Passengers through the Port of Dover, as with those using the Eurotunnel at Cheriton, will notice substantial building works near the entrance. This work is to create additional off road parking places for lorries, so that they are not blocking our roads whilst waiting to board their train or ship. The works at these two sites should provide around six hundred parking places for lorries. There are also plans to expand the parking facilities for lorries at the junction 11 motorway services on the M20, and in total we could easily create around 1,500 parking places within the our exiting transport infrastructure. This will be a big step forward in creating the resilience we need to cope with the demands of Operation Stack, and still keep the roads open. Stack should only be called in exceptional circumstances, when the Port or tunnel have been closed for a lengthy period. Thankfully, Stack is far less frequent now than it has been in previous years.
We also need to make sure that the lorries using the Port and tunnel are respectful of our local environment. In April 2014 our charging scheme for foreign lorries became fully operational, meaning that hauliers from mainland Europe and elsewhere now make a direct financial contribution to the upkeep of our roads. Before this charge, many haulage companies were paying no taxes or charges in the UK at all. In addition to this, Shepway and Ashford councils will be introducing enforcement action against lorries parked illegally, causing a danger to other road users and making a general mess. I would also like to see tough enforcement action taken against lorry drivers who are found littering along the highways.