£468m plan to end the mis­ery

MP: M20 must keep flow­ing

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Operation Stack Solution? - By Paul Fran­cis

Op­er­a­tion Stack could be solved – but with a stag­ger­ing price tag of at least £468 mil­lion, we can re­veal.

That is ac­cord­ing to a work­ing group set up to come up with al­ter­na­tive op­tions to the scheme af­ter the county ground to a halt this sum­mer dur­ing 32 days of grid­lock.

And even if the pack­age of mea­sures were fully im­ple­mented, it could still mean as many as 1,500 HGVs hav­ing to be parked on the M20 and a lorry hold­ing area off the mo­tor­way for some 4,000 lor­ries.

The plans have been put for­ward by a group which con­sists of Kent County Coun­cil, the Highways Agency, Kent Po­lice and oth­ers.

The gov­ern­ment di­rected the group to come up with ideas for more per­ma­nent so­lu­tions to Op­er­a­tion Stack. The mas­ter­plan in­cludes: • Strength­en­ing the hard shoul­der of the M20 be­tween junc­tions 10 to 8;

• Im­prove­ments to the A20 in and around Dover to in­crease ca­pac­ity and re­move bot­tle­necks;

• Im­prov­ing the use of mo­tor­way signs and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy;

• Po­ten­tial lorry park close to the M20 to hold up to 4,000 HGVs;

• An ex­ten­sion of the STOP24 lorry park at Folke­stone for up to 1,000 lor­ries

If all the mea­sures were im­ple­mented, to­gether they would cater for as many as 6,500 HGVs – but of those, 1,500 would still be parked on the mo­tor­way.

Cllr Matthew Bal­four, KCC’s cab­i­net mem­ber for trans­port, said the costs could be jus­ti­fied given the wide­spread dis­rup­tion caused to the coun­try over the sum­mer.

“I do be­lieve there is a good case, and not just be­cause of the costs to the haulage in­dus­try, which they have put at £250m a day.

“More to the point is the dis­rup­tion to the peo­ple of Kent, caused by not be­ing able to go to the shops, be­ing able to run their busi­nesses and miss­ing hos­pi­tal ap­point­ments.”

He said it would be for Highways Eng­land to de­cide what to do and more work needed to be done on the pos­si­ble costs to the public purse.

“What I don’t want to hap­pen is for the Trea­sury to turn around and say ‘this is not worth it.’

“Un­less we can jus­tify that in real terms the cost ben­e­fit anal­y­sis will fit with the Trea­sury’s de­mands, the next time it hap­pens Kent will grind to a halt again, with all the mis­ery and dis­rup­tion to the peo­ple of Kent and in­deed the wider econ­omy. “I just don’t think that is fair.” A re­port dis­cussed by county coun­cil­lors yesterday (Wed­nes­day) states: “The pre­lim­i­nary cost for this pack­age is £468m.

“The key is­sues around im­ple­men­ta­tion con­cern cer­tainty of fund­ing, who will de­liver, and timescales for de­liv­ery.

“While some mea­sures could be de­liv­ered in the short term, for oth­ers the timescales could be over the next two to three years.”

It adds de­tailed plans will be needed to take some of the pro­pos­als through the plan­ning process.

What do you think? Write to Ken­tish Ex­press, 34-36 North Street, Ash­ford, TN24 8JR or email ken­tish­ex­press@thek­m­group.co.uk Ash­ford MP Damian Green said: “Ob­vi­ously I want as much ca­pac­ity to take lor­ries off the mo­tor­ways as pos­si­ble. It would mean that at the start, when there is a small amount of lor­ries, we wouldn’t need to have Op­er­a­tion Stack at all.

“When Op­er­a­tion Stack is on, I want to see some prac­ti­cal pro­pos­als that en­able the mo­tor­way to flow both ways, so we don’t end up with the grid­lock we had in July.”

“I’ve re­ceived a let­ter from the trans­port min­is­ter An­drew Jones, who, along with Highways Eng­land, says they are be­gin­ning to as­sess a num­ber of sites which could of­fer a po­ten­tial long-term so­lu­tion.”

But he warned he would be con­cerned if there could still be HGVs parked on the M20.

He went on: “I’m en­cour­aged they are look­ing for of­froad so­lu­tions for Op­er­a­tion Stack be­cause it means the gov­ern­ment na­tion­ally has ac­cepted the need for it.

“It would be a con­cern if there are still 1,500 lor­ries parked be­tween junc­tions 8 and 9. Keep­ing those junc­tions flow­ing as smoothly as pos­si­ble is hugely im­por­tant for Ash­ford.”

Pic­ture: Gary Browne FM3945307

Op­er­a­tion Stack be­tween junction 9 and 10 of the M20 look­ing coast­bound

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