Government urged to act over Operation Stack

July 29 2015  

Government urged to act over Operation Stack
Widening the M20 to accommodate lorries caught up in Operation Stack is among a series of recommendations Kent County Council is putting to Government this week.
 
The measure was discussed on Friday at a meeting of councillors, transport agencies and local MPs to reduce disruption for motorists when delays at cross Channel ports turn the coast bound carriageway of the M20 into a lorry park.
 
Highways England had previously agreed to consider introducing temporary contraflow on the motorway as a short term measure, allowing two way traffic to run when Operation Stack is in force, but the method has since been rejected as unsafe.
 
Kent County Council’s cabinet member for transport Matthew Balfour, who chaired last week’s meeting, told TP Weekly News: “It is absolutely vital that Kent’s motorways are free and not blocked up. But this is not just a county problem, it is a national and international issue too.
 
“It is up to Government to find long term solutions to Operation Stack,” he added. “We will make various suggestions including increasing the width of the motorway so that an extra lane can be used for a moving queue of lorries, allowing cars and other vehicles to use the motorway too.”
 
Councillor Balfour added that creating a holding area for lorries off the M20 is another option which could help “soak up initial problems as they arise”.
 
Philip Gomm of the RAC Foundation said: “The depressing thing is that Operation Stack has been with us for almost 30 years and yet only now are alternatives being seriously considered.
 
“The idea of widening the M20 to create a spare lane might seem radical, but recent weeks have shown that radical is what we need if people aren’t to be routinely caught in gridlock. Certainly it should be pursued in principle while some of the other immediate, practical suggestions are attempted.”
 
Motoring association the AA’s head of roads policy Paul Watters added that closing the motorway to traffic is “a detriment to trade, tourism and the people of Kent”.
 
Operation Stack has been used six times over the course of this summer. The Freight Transport Association says that delays on both sides of the Channel cost the UK logistics sector £750,000 a day. The association’s head of policy South East England added that the rejection of contraflow as a short term solution on the M20 was “hugely frustrating”.
 
“We understand that Highways England have looked at the contraflow option and are concerned at the risk to safety in introducing this, but the fact remains that we still need a safe and workable solution,” she said.
 
Meanwhile Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes has called for Government to reimburse the county’s police force for the full costs of policing Operation Stack. In a letter to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, she wrote: “Kent taxpayers cannot go on any longer subsidising this national issue at the expense of local policing.”
 
(Photo: Barry Davis and licensed for reuse under this Creative Common Licence)

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