Q5. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the Strategic Priorities for the Local Transport Plan? (Pages 11 to 21 in the LTP)
- Enabling growth in the Thames Gateway;
The transport investments that are required to deliver planned development and the measures that need to be taken to bring them forward will be prioritised. Transport schemes include enhancements to the road network along the A2 corridor and public transport improvements including extending Crossrail into Kent. These measures require strategic Government decisions, public sector funding and efforts to secure private investment. Transport improvements needed to deliver growth in the Thames Gateway Kent:
- A2 Bean junction upgrade,
- A2 Ebbsfleet junction upgrade,
- Increased high speed rail services to Ebbsfleet
- Crossrail extension from Abbey Wood to Dartford, Ebbsfleet and Gravesend.
Whilst we support improvements to public transport to serve the development in the Thames Gateway and believe that travel by road should be constrained to limit the impact of the development on the strategic road network we would object to expansion of High Speed Rail Services to Ebbsfleet at the expense of those to Ashford.
- A new Lower Thames Crossing;
The existing Dartford Crossing is the shortest freight route between Kent and the major distribution centres in the Midlands and the North. However, the capacity is overloaded for large periods of the day and it is extremely vulnerable to incidents – over 300 times a year the Crossing is fully or partially closed. Due to congestion and delays, it affects productivity and constrains economic growth. We are clear that a new Lower Thames Crossing, to the east of Gravesend, is required to unlock growth, improve journey time reliability, improve network resilience, and enable opportunities for regeneration. In the 2016 consultation, our response was adamant that the Western Southern Link should be chosen and that with careful route alignment and tunnelling, the environmental and heritage impacts could be substantially minimised. As part of the project to deliver the new Lower Thames Crossing the A229 between M2 Junction 3 and M20 Junction 6 should be upgraded (what has previously been called Option C ‘variant’) along with improvements to the A249 as another link between the two motorways and the upgrades identified for ‘bifurcation of port traffic’ set out in the next section.
- Bifurcation of port traffic;
It is vital to the UK economy that the Channel Corridor operates efficiently at all times and is resilient to incidents on the network. Port traffic is currently routed along the M20/A20, which results in severance between Dover town centre and the harbour. With the construction of a new Lower Thames Crossing, a second strategic route will be available between Dover and the Midlands and North. The project to revive the Dover Western Docks plus expansion of the existing Port would naturally split traffic so that for the Western Docks and Channel Tunnel would use the M20/A20, and traffic for the Eastern Docks would be encouraged to use the M2/A2.
Bifurcation will also facilitate growth of Whitfield, Folkestone, Ashford and Maidstone by releasing capacity on the M20.
To deliver bifurcation, the following upgrades are required:
- M2 Junction 7 (Brenley Corner) improvements to improve capacity and provide free-flow between the M2 and A2.
- Dualling sections of single carriageway on the A2 north of Dover along Jubilee Way to Whitfield and near Lydden.
- M20 Junction 7 improvements to provide ease of access between the A249 and M20.
- M2 Junction 5 Stockbury improvements to provide free-flow between the M2 and A249.
- Port Expansion
The Government’s Port Policy Review Interim Report forecast a 101% increase in roll on – roll off ferry traffic by 2030 (HGVs and LGVs driving on and off ferries). To accommodate this growth, constraints in the south east’s capacity for short-sea routes to the Continent have to be overcome. Dover Harbour Board’s master planning has shown that the existing Eastern Docks would not provide sufficient capacity and therefore the Port plan to redevelop the Western Docks.
The Western Docks will provide a cargo terminal with a port-centric distribution centre, allowing the existing cargo operations to move out of the Eastern Docks so that capacity within the existing dedicated ferry terminal can be increased. The redevelopment would also kick-start the regeneration of Dover town, attracting investment, creating jobs and improving the appearance of the Waterfront. The scheme will remodel the Prince of Wales and York Street roundabouts on the A20.
Whilst we agree with the need to accommodate traffic growth at the Port of Dover we consider that more research and investment should be provided into expansion of rail freight through the Channel Tunnel and the County to minimise the need for increased road capacity. Use of road pricing for HGV vehicles should be investigated as a means to balance the economic advantages of road use over rail. This should be accompanied by a reduction in Vehicle Tax for HGVs to offset the cost increase for UK operators.
- A solution to Operation Stack;
When there is disruption at the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel, Operation Stack may be implemented and sections of the M20 closed to hold lorries. The impacts are estimated to cost the Kent and Medway economy over £1.5m per day, with the wider costs to the UK economy being much greater. When the motorway traffic is rerouted onto M2, A20 and the local road network it has detrimental impacts on the communities along these routes. The use of Operation Stack creates a negative perception of Kent as a place to do business.
We are working with Highways England who is leading on the delivery of a Lorry Area that will reduce the need to use the M20 to queue freight vehicles during times of disruption to cross-Channel services. In addition to this work, we will lobby for more freight to be transported by rail although we acknowledge that limited train paths for rail freight and the economics of transporting goods by roads limits the scope for significant modal shift.
We agree that Operation Stack must be addressed urgently to stop the impact, not only on the strategic road network but also on the local roads that are used as diversion routes during Operation Stack and its the economic consequences. Work must be continued beyond the current proposal which is acknowledged by Highways England to provide capacity for only half of the potential current requirement. Research and investment must be provided into the use of technology, to control entry of freight vehicles into the county, a national strategy to address lorry parking and development of rail freight to reduce the potential increase in HGV traffic.
- Provision for overnight lorry parking;
Kent has a high demand for lorry parking spaces because of its connectivity to continental Europe attracting high volumes of cross-Channel freight. We are developing a strategy for a network of small lorry parks at suitable locations across Kent and a partnership approach with the Districts and the Police to address enforcement. The proposed Operation Stack Lorry Area adjacent to the M20 at Stanford should be integrated with this overall strategy. This strategy should also include improved management of freight traffic through Kent utilising technology to direct HGVs to parking sites and available cross Channel services, i.e. ‘ticketing’ flexibility between Eurotunnel and ferry operators to ensure optimum fluidity of freight movement.
Combined with a multi-agency approach to enforcement, the provision of additional lorry parking capacity will reduce antisocial behaviour on the public highway, including littering. This will also reduce unsafe lorry parking, such as vehicles overhanging laybys, and so improve road safety.
KCC must push for its strategy for HGV parking to be extended throughout the South East and beyond, to allow management of HGV movement into the County at times of excess traffic flow.
- Ashford International Station signalling.
Ashford International Station is linked to High Speed 1 by two sections of railway known as the Ashford Spurs. The signalling on these spurs needs to be upgraded to permit the operation of the new Eurostar Class e320 trains into Ashford International Station. We, working in partnership with Ashford Borough Council, have led a working group with all concerned stakeholders to fund, procure and deliver an upgrade to the signalling system. The delivery of the upgraded signalling system by Network Rail will enable Ashford to continue to operate as an international station, serving the new fleet of Class e320 Eurostar trains, as well as any future international rail operators such as Deutsche Bahn.
- Thanet Parkway Railway Station;
The districts of Canterbury, Dover, Shepway and Thanet together form East Kent. The area suffers from increased deprivation when compared with West Kent, and the wider South East. Poor accessibility has discouraged major employers from locating in the area, and prevents regeneration. We are seeking to deliver a new railway station to significantly improve rail connectivity to the area.
The station will provide access to greater employment opportunities for local residents, increase the attractiveness for investment in Discovery Park Enterprise Zone and numerous surrounding business parks in Thanet, and support local housing growth including Stone Hill Park on the former Manston Airport site if this is granted planning permission. The estimated journey time from Thanet Parkway to London St Pancras will be just over 20 minutes shorter than that from Deal to London St Pancras, therefore a new station enhances the accessibility of the wider area of East Kent.Rail connectivity between London, Ashford and Thanet will be improved by delivery of the Journey Time Improvement (JTI) scheme. This aims to reduce the journey time between Ashford and Ramsgate. The first phase, between Ashford and Canterbury West, is due for completion by May 2017; the second phase, between Canterbury West and Ramsgate, is due for completion by 2019/20.
Neither agree nor disagree
- Rail and Bus Improvements
We need a public transport system that is integrated, affordable, and therefore an attractive option for our residents. One barrier for many people is the cost of commuting by train, which can prevent people from being able to access employment, particularly in London. This is known as the ‘rail price penalty’ and we will work with Government and the rail franchisee to identify options to reduce this. We have made good progress on promoting improvements to rail passenger services through the Rail Action Plan for Kent, and this has led to KCC being recognised as a voice of authority on rail matters for the South East. We will now work to influence the new South Eastern rail franchise (2018) as well as continuing to run annual Rail Summits to stand up for Kent’s passengers. We support the proposal for an extension of Crossrail 1 from Abbey Wood to Dartford, Ebbsfleet and Gravesend ensuring the delivery of additional rail capacity for the planned Ebbsfleet Garden City, London Paramount and Thames Gateway area.
We actively support seven Quality Bus Partnerships (QBP) and Punctuality Improvement Partnerships (PIP), and we are progressing with the roll-out of smart ticketing to provide seamless travel between operators. The successful Fastrack bus service in Kent Thameside will be developed as growth occurs, and it is exemplary of a high quality bus service. We have to take a pragmatic approach to funding commercially unviable bus services and will seek to support other means of provision that can achieve the same aims, such as community bus services. However, we welcome the potential for KCC to have bus franchising powers to enhance services and create an integrated public transport network.
We support the improvement of rail and bus passenger services. More should be done to integrate rail and bus services through combined ticketing, integrated timetables, shared passenger information systems and promotion and development of the Kent Connected website. We also believe that the rail freight should be included in the plan and research and investment into making more freight paths available on the rail network in Kent and beyond and improving the economic viability of rail freight compared with road.