As we saw two summers ago, closing the M20 during Operation Stack has a terrible impact on Kent, with roads brought to a standstill, businesses unable to function and patients delayed getting to hospital.
I’ve been calling for a lorry park off the M20 to help solve the problem, and I’m disappointed to hear today that this has been held up further. The Government tried to fast-track the planning process at Stanford but it’s been held up by a judicial review and I understand the Government is no longer defending the review.
I have always said that the key to avoiding a repeat of the chaos of summer 2015 is to make sure traffic can continue to flow in both directions on the M20 when Operation Stack is in place. So I welcome that the Government has been thinking creatively about ways to do this.
In my previous meetings with Highways England I have found that they were reluctant to consider innovative solutions. The new proposal to hold lorries in the middle of the motorway using mobile barriers, while allowing traffic to continue to travel in both directions, suggests to me they are being much more ambitious in their thinking.
This will be a temporary solution, and we still need a proper alternative to Operation Stack. The Government is now getting straight on with trying to get a lorry park approved through the normal planning process. As part of this it is broadening its scope and thinking of ways to address the broader problems of fly-parking and the potential impact of Brexit – as well as Operation Stack. I will be scrutinising these proposals as they emerge and pressing the Government and Highways England to get on with this urgently.