‘M20 must remain open’ – Mike Whiting’s call to Government

Cllr Mike WhitingMike Whiting, KCC’s Cabinet Member for Planning, Highways and Waste made a strong statement on the need for the M20 to remain ‘fully open for two-way traffic at all times’. Addressing the full council meeting held at Kent County Council on 15 March, he said,

“Highways England has been tasked by Government to develop an interim solution to Operation Stack to be in place by March 2019 in time for Brexit. Highways England is developing a number of options that, while continuing to hold HGVs on the M20 in the event of delays at the ports, would also allow non-port traffic to continue to travel in both directions. Highways England is assessing different technologies ranging from steel barriers to moveable barrier systems, as well as the traffic management, including signing to get vehicles into the right lanes, that could be used to enable the safe separation of two-way flow from the queuing port traffic.

KCC is being consulted by Highways England on how these options could affect the local road network. I have already written to the Secretary of State insisting that the M20 must remain fully open for two-way traffic at all times enabling our residents and businesses to travel and there must be no impact on our local road network. I stressed to the Secretary of State that the County Council wants to avoid any repeat of the disruption in 2015 when Operation Stack was in place for 32 days at an estimated cost to the Kent economy of £1.45 million per day, and emphasised that maintaining traffic fluidity post-Brexit is a of paramount importance to Kent residents, businesses and the UK economy as a whole.

A final decision on which option to take forward will be made by Government early this year, with Highways England tasked to deliver by March 2019. The selected interim scheme could be announced alongside the public consultation on the options for a permanent solution to Operation Stack with a lorry park or parks, as the on-motorway scheme would only be temporary. KCC’s response to this forthcoming consultation will be brought to the Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee at the appropriate time.

Currently the short-term contingency plan for Operation Stack is to use Manston Airport to park HGVs during severe disruption. Manston can hold approximately 4,000 lorries and would be implemented if Operation Stack Stages 1 and 2 (M20 junctions 8 to 11 coast-bound) becomes full, thus preventing the need to use the London-bound carriageway as was the case in the summer of 2015. Port of Dover lorries would be routed along the A249, M2 and A299 to Manston and then released along the A256 to Dover.

Thankfully Operation Stack has not been called since the summer of 2015, so Manston has yet to be used. The introduction of the Dover TAP scheme which queues HGVs along the inside lane of the A20 between Dover and Folkestone when there are delays at the Port of Dover has also helped prevent the need for Stack on several occasions.”