Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Dover Harbour Board (IT 93)

  I am writing in response to the Committee's current inquiry into the Integrated Transport White Paper. Since the outcome of the Trust Ports Review and the detailed "daughter document" on freight are still pending—and being conscious of the Committee's heavy workload—I thought it best to limit Dover Harbour Board's initial response to the following brief comments.

  Dover is the busiest cross-Channel freight port in the UK serving as the conduit for more than one-third (by value) of all the country's visible trade with continental Europe. It is a key link in the Trans-European Transport Network processing in 1997 over 3 million T.E.Us and 21 million passengers.

  Dover Harbour Board welcomes the Integrated Transport White Paper and strongly supports the DETR's emphases on congestion reduction and intermodal integration—the latter being the very essence of our business.

  We are currently awaiting further details of two important areas of policy—trust status and freight—but are taking steps in both these areas which we believe represent a concrete and positive contribution to realisation of the Government's overall objectives:

    —  On the Trust Ports Review, we are aware that questions of accountability are to the fore of this exercise. We recently held a major consultative forum for stakeholders and those with an interest in the workings of the port. This was attended by the Department and we look forward to working with officials to ensure that Dover represents a case of best practice in terms of accountability, consultation and performance. We continue, of course, to believe that trust status represents the best means of ensuring that Dover's role as a national—and nationally accountable—asset is recognised and fostered.

    —  On freight, we are anxious to take forward the Government's emphasis on switching operations from road to rail. In 1997 Dover handled more than 80 per cent of the road-borne freight between Kent and the Continent so the port clearly has a role to play in meeting this challenge. In this light we are currently in discussions with the relevant authorities concerning the development of rail freight capacity.

  As the Committee may be aware, current forecasts suggest that if Government policy is successful, cross-Channel freight traffic will double in the next ten years. Since the Channel Tunnel will be able to accommodate less than half of this increase, additional through-rail freight capacity will be required. A seven-mile extension of the proposed rail freight highway, to include Dover, would provide a second through-rail cross Channel link at low cost. We are already in discussions with the relevant bodies about taking this proposal forward.

  Even if approved, such a scheme would take some years to develop and we are, of course, concerned by recent reports suggesting that further delays to a full programme of transport reform are possible.

  In order to plan for the next 10-15 years and to fulfil Dover's role as the nation's main trading port, it is vital that the standard of the road network and the needs of road freight operators are taken into account. We would hope that the Committee would consider the development of the White Paper proposals in this practical, chronological light.

  I hope that the above comments are useful. I am very much aware that the Committee's primary focus in conducting this inquiry is on practical instances of good practice which can help to advance policy.

Jonathan Sloggett

Managing Director and Register

25 September 1998

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