New consultation by Highways England

Highways England has announced a new consultation on ideas to find a permanent alternative to Operation Stack.  We will learn the details on Monday.  All we know now is a list of exhibition dates available here, and it appears that no specific sites are being put forward at this stage.

This is a welcome change of approach by government and HE. In our view, it is an admission that the rushed ‘solution’ of one huge expanse of tarmac is not technically or environmentally feasible.

A lot has happened in the last three years, including:

  • no instances of Operation Stack;
  • a go-ahead for the Lower Thames Crossing;
  • moves towards upgrading the A2 into Dover;
  • Dover Port going ahead with the Western Docks project which will enable more queuing space in the Eastern Docks.

There has been a lot of talk about the effect of brexit on delays at the ports, but as far as we can see if they can solve the Irish border problem then Dover and Eurotunnel will not have any insurmountable brexit problems either.

We have always maintained that the first thing to do is to provide more off-road lorry parking, distributed throughout the highway network.  The National Survey of Lorry Parking published by Highways England on 18 May confirms a shortage of 1,000-1,200 lorry parking spaces in Kent, the demand being along both the M20 and M2/A2.  This essential infrastructure can then be used with a smart queuing system to bring lorries to the ports in an orderly way during and after an ‘Operation Stack’ type event affecting Dover and/or Eurotunnel.  Contrary to what some politicians seem to think, it’s not necessary to have lorries move forward from one lorry park to another under some physical traffic light system.  All it needs is 21st century thinking and the cooperation of the cross-channel carriers.

We look forward to seeing what’s on offer next week.

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