A fresh round of consultation opens today (Monday, June 11) on tackling the congestion caused by freight traffic held up when trying to cross the English Channel.
Or, in other words, what can we all do about Operation Stack?
CPRE Kent has made regular contributions to the debate on Stack (the process used by police and the Port of Dover to park lorries on the M20 when ferry or Eurotunnel services are disrupted by industrial action or bad weather; the organisation’s view is summed up by director Dr Hilary Newport:
“We are pleased that the flawed plan for a single huge lorry park – the size of Disneyland – just off junction 11 of the M20 were dropped.
“We, along with the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, did not believe that this could be a viable solution to keeping the M20 flowing freely, and there is no doubt that it would have been a huge blight on Kent’s countryside.”
Some two years ago, when there was also a round of public consultation, Dr Newport said: “We do not think that a single huge lorry park, which may only be called into use for a few days – if at all – in any year is the answer.
“A better solution would offer real resilience to the logistics industry now and into the future and help not just Kent but the whole country cope with disruption, strikes or emergency, such as extreme weather, fire or security threats.”
Other problems that need addressing include roadside parking of HGVs with the associated litter and noise; noise and air pollution caused by engines running in slow-moving traffic jams or when stationary to keep refrigeration units running; and disproportionate wear and tear on Kent’s roads.
CPRE Kent contends that instead of the expensive and damaging construction of a single lorry park, investment should be made to:
- Support a network of dispersed, serviced truck stops that operate on a commercial basis and have some degree of overflow capacity in the event of disruption to Channel crossings. Many shippers prohibit trucks stopping within 120 kilometres of Calais. Similar measures should be employed to hold vehicles outside the Channel Corridor until called forward.
- Incentivise the use of alternative ports of entry and exit (such as Newhaven, Ramsgate, Sheerness, Dartford, Portsmouth and Purfleet), as well as modal shift away from road-based freight – this would also have the additional benefit of reducing reliance on the Dartford crossings.
- Incentivise shippers to return to unaccompanied trailer operations across the Channel, which would also boost UK employment of HGV drivers and reduce emissions.
- Work with the logistics industry, fleet operators and drivers to implement ‘smart queuing’ – smartphones, GPS and communications technology should remove the need for drivers to be nearest the front of any physical queue in Kent when they could be called forward from dispersed locations further afield and guaranteed timely passage across the Channel.
- Implement ‘quick wins’ – CPRE Kent supports expansion of the existing Stop24 truck facility south of the M20 at junction 11; this could quickly provide a partial solution.
Dr Newport said: “With modern technology and sophisticated international business operations, we are sure there is a better solution than allowing all the lorries to build up in Kent with no other way of reaching Europe than the Dover/Folkestone to Calais crossings.”