£468m plan to end the misery
MP: M20 must keep flowing
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 email@example.com 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.”
Operation Stack between junction 9 and 10 of the M20 looking coastbound