A multimillion-pound investment plan to revamp one of Britain’s key gateways to Europe has been announced.
The Port of Dover said its current Eastern Docks ferry terminal will receive a major upgrade by 2015 under the £85M capital investment proposals.
Improvements will be made to boost the port’s capacity, pier extensions will be carried out to cater for new super-ferries and major resurfacing works will be conducted.
Officials said the ambitious programme will come ahead of even larger plans to create a new second ferry terminal to double the port’s overall capacity.
Passenger numbers at the port are said to be rising, with sailings every 30 minutes during peak times and 54 sailings on a typical midweek day.
While rail and air services suffered major disruption due to the Icelandic ash cloud and heavy snow, ferry passenger numbers rose during the periods, a spokeswoman said.
Last year there was a 6.2% rise in the number of coaches, to over 86,000, and a 1.5% rise in tourist cars, to over 2.8 million, passing through the port.
Kate O’Hara, the port’s head of commercial and marketing, said: “Despite the tough economic climate, the port has seen growth in the tourist sector and the business is buoyant and optimistic.
“This has been confirmed by the introduction of new and bigger vessels, including the largest ferry ever to sail from Dover, P&O’s Spirit of Britain.”
Spirit of Britain, a 49,000 tonne vessel, cost £152M and was officially named by Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes in March.
The ship, which can hold up to 2,000 passengers and has three vehicle decks capable of carrying nearly two and a half miles of traffic, is the largest ferry to operate on the Dover Strait.