In a six-week ‘listening’ exercise, Highways England (HE) is inviting people living, working and travelling through Kent to contribute their views and ideas on a permanent solution to the Operation Stack truck management scheme.
Operation Stack is a procedure used by Kent Police and the Port of Dover to park or ‘stack’ trucks on the M20 motorway in Kent when services across the English Channel, such as those through the Channel Tunnel or on ferries, are disrupted, for example by bad weather, industrial action, fire or derailments in the tunnel. Operation Stack is implemented whenever there is an urgent need to inhibit the flow of traffic to the Channel Tunnel and Dover, which handle 90% of freight traffic between the UK and mainland Europe. There are officially only 550 parking spaces for trucks in Kent, so if access to cross-channel services is restricted, congestion quickly spreads on the strategic and local road network across the county.
The government-initiated exercise is part of a completely fresh look at how traffic can be managed better during disruption to services across the Channel, and builds on improvements already made by HE and its partners in Kent since the unprecedented deployment of Operation Stack in summer 2015, when the scheme was in place for over 30 days. Without action, existing and likely future issues will continue to put pressure on the roads and motorways in Kent. With traffic levels due to increase, Operation Stack is likely to be activated more frequently. The consultation exercise runs until July 22, with drop in sessions being held across Kent, and information available at 30 locations countywide.
The HE exercise is inviting feedback on the development of a truck holding area. The solution could be an on- or off-road holding area for trucks, at one site or a number of sites, although no sites have been identified at this stage. Views are also welcomed on the possible provision of 24-hour truck parking facilities for everyday use by lorry drivers, which could help with freight parking problems in Kent. Other aims of the feedback scheme include:
• Providing a solution that is safe to operate and maintain;
• Understanding existing and predicted numbers of trucks crossing the Channel or delivering goods in Kent, to ensure an appropriate number of spaces can be provided at holding area facilities;
• Not discouraging the commercial sector from bringing forward plans for additional truck parking and/or border control facilities;
• Being operationally resilient so that a range of disruption issues can be managed flexibly
• Achieving compliance with HE’s strategic aims to deliver economic growth;
• Providing a safe, serviceable and accessible network, providing better customer service, more reliable journey times, and an improved environment.
“The disruption that people in Kent experienced in the summer of 2015 underlined the need for improvements to how traffic is managed when services across the English Channel are interrupted. Around 11,500 lorries use the Kent corridor to access cross-Channel travel services every day,” noted HE’s project director, John Kerner. “In 2016, the port of Dover and Eurotunnel handled a record number of lorries, and this is expected to double over the next decade. We now have an opportunity to take a completely fresh look at what a permanent solution to Operation Stack could be, and understanding people’s views will be vital in making sure we can identify the most appropriate outcome.”