The haulage industry reacts with disappointed after the government scrap plans for a lorry park in Kent designed to provide safe and secure lorry parking and help relive road congestion around Dover and the Channel Tunnel.
The proposed plans for the lorry park for Operation Stack at Stanford West have been rejected as no environmental assessment were carried out prior to the review.
Haulage industry associations have greeting the rejected plans with criticism.
“This facility is of massive importance to hauliers and the people of Kent. We understand that the alternatives are to extend the truck park at Manston and to utilise 2 lanes of the M20.
“This red-tape debacle is a complete disaster for hauliers coming over from the Continent. Two years ago we saw the misery of operators who, for many days, were caught up in the gridlock of Operation Stack. Even the most basic requirements for HGV drivers such as toilet facilities and drinking water were non-existent. And for the people and economy of Kent, the cost was enormous.
“As Brexit approaches we are pushing hard for free-flowing customs border controls. If we cannot achieve the right Brexit deal, we could be looking at customs border queues which could potentially cause misery for hauliers and the residents and businesses of Kent.
Reconfirming its commitment to a permanent alternative to Operation Stack the government said it would no longer defend a judicial review of the park called by protesting residents.
Severe delays seen in 2015 had exposed the need for a long-term solution to road congestion when there are issues with Cross-Channel services.
Highways England’s John Kerner said: “Improvements at the port and changes in traffic management on the A20 near Dover have shown real improvements and helped prevent Operation Stack being implemented,
“Now plans at Stanford West have been withdrawn, we’ve been asked to immediately develop interim and permanent solutions to reduce traffic impacts from Cross-Channel disruption.”
Highways England are working on several intermediate options which include continuing to hold lorries on the M20, however also allowing non-port traffic to travel in both ways. Another method would be to hold lorries in the middle of the motorway rather than on the coast bound carriageway.
No longer-term plans have been specified, hopefully something can be decided and implemented quickly as the current proceure with Operation Stack is not good for the well being of lorry drivers. The affects that Operation Stack also has on lorry drivers hours and rest periods can cause issues.
The FTA’s Christopher Snelling said: “As always with Stack, the best solution would be not to need it. With Brexit on the horizon and all the other issues that can occur on the Dover-Calais route, we simply won’t be able to guarantee that.”
After plans were rejected, transport secretary Chris Grayling announced the Department for Transport would start the process to promote a lorry park immediately through the general planning process. He said: “This will include a full environmental assessment and we will reassess the scope, scale and location, considering changes since the original lorry park concept was promoted.
“In particular, the UK’s exit from the EU but also the need for ‘business-as-usual’ lorry parking in Kent.
“This demonstrates that the government is still serious about finding both interim and permanent solutions to tackle traffic problems occurring from disruption at our busiest border for lorry freight,” he added.
Mr Snelling continued: “Whatever the solution, everyone from the hauliers to the residents of Kent all agree a better solution for Operation Stack is needed.
“The withdrawal of this application is a major disappointment and means proper management of a Stack situation may be many more years off”.