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News | Delay to Operation Stack alternatives

Date Posted: 15th November 2017

The government has announced today a delay in providing an alternative to Operation Stack, which were originally due to be in place this year.

The original plan for a lorry area at Stanford West, near junction 11, was challenged through a judicial review pushing an potential solution further back.

Measures that will help improve the road network's resilience when there are interruptions to services across the English Channel are being set out by Highways England today (Wednesday 15 November).

The steps include a fresh look at options for holding large numbers of lorries at a site near the M20, and an interim solution that would hold freight traffic on the M20 while keeping the motorway open in both directions for other vehicles.

Highways England project director John Kerner said:

"The disruption that people in Kent suffered in summer 2015 underlines the need for long term improvements to how traffic is managed when cross-channel services are interrupted.

"Improvements at the port, and changes we have made to traffic management on the A20 near Dover, have delivered real improvements and have also helped prevent Operation Stack from being implemented. Along with our partners we are better prepared than ever, but a better plan for dealing with more widespread disruption is still needed.

"Now that the Government has withdrawn the decision to build a lorry area at Stanford West, we have been asked by the Transport Secretary to immediately develop both an interim and a permanent solution to reduce the local traffic impacts if there is cross-channel disruption.

"Highways England is committed to delivering the Government's aim of finding a solution that makes Operation Stack less disruptive for people and businesses in Kent, and the improvements we are taking forward will help to do just that."

Highways England have developed a number of options that, while continuing to hold HGVs on the M20, would allow non-port traffic to continue to travel in both directions reducing the levels of traffic disruption seen in Operation Stack. This could, for example, be through holding HGVs in the centre of the motorway rather than on the coastbound carriageway. Different technologies ranging from steel barriers to movable barrier systems could be deployed to deliver these solutions.

A decision on the interim option being taken forward will be made in early 2018, with delivery complete by March 2019.

The Transport Secretary has also tasked Highways England with starting the process to develop a permanent alternative to Operation Stack, incorporating a lorry park, through the normal planning process, including a full Environmental Impact Assessment.

Slamming the delay, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman, Mike Cherry said:

"Operation Stack brings gridlock to vast swathes of Kent, leaving local businesses cut off from customers and supplies. It is deeply disappointing that the search for a solution appears to have gone right back to square one and that even an interim solution may not be in place for another 16 months. While proper planning procedures must be followed, action needs to be taken urgently to prevent the risk of further chaos.

"Today's announcement by the Government that is no longer defending a judicial review over the planned lorry park near the M20 means that Highways England is now having to go back to the drawing board to find a solution to the traffic chaos which has blighted the life of so many residents and local businesses in the South East but also impacted on the national supply chain too.

"Given Dover is Europe's busiest international ferry port and handles £100 billion of trade annually, we urge the Government to implement an interim plan as soon as possible – ensuring disruption is kept to a minimum."

Highways England is currently reviewing the scope, scale and location of potential solutions. The work will take into account changes since the original concept of the lorry park was promoted, in particular the UK's exit from the European Union but also the need for ‘business as usual' lorry parking in Kent. Specific investment decisions on both the longer-term and interim solutions will be subject to normal considerations of affordability and value for money. Highways England intends to consult on the options in early 2018 with a view to submitting a planning application in 2019.

The measures announced today build on significant progress that has been made in recent years.

Since the unprecedented deployment of Operation Stack in summer 2015, Highways England has installed new traffic lights and lane control at the end of the A20 dual carriageway on approach to Dover. The arrangements, known as Dover TAP, have helped to prevent Operation Stack being called on at least six occasions. Improvements to holding capacity made in the Port of Dover and at Eurotunnel's Folkestone terminal have also had a positive effect.

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