Kent Online from the Kent Messenger is reporting that the M20 outside lane from Junction 8 in Hollingbourne to the Channel Tunnel and Dover is to be strengthened so it can be used a lorry park for vehicles waiting to go through Customs Controls after Brexit at 11pm on 29th March 2019. Kent County Council is reported as opposing this Government plan from Mr Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport who was in Ashford on Tuesday 3rd April. On previous Operation Stack occasions when the M20 has been used for storing vehicles waiting to cross the Channel, there has been traffic chaos on the roads around the M20 including those serving Hollingbourne.
Unless there is an agreement to allow the seamless movement of goods through the Channel ports after Brexit, the Port of Dover has previously stated that the clearance time for each vehicle will increase from an average of 2 minutes to 20 minutes which will result in Operation Stack on a daily basis if the current number of 10,000+ lorries a day continues to use the M20. In 2015 when Operation Stack lasted for almost 35 days there was congestion on many roads and businesses including local public houses suffered.
According to the AA Route Planner the distance from Maidstone Services in Hollingbourne at Junction 8 of the M20 to Dover Eastern Docks is 37.4 miles. The Port has previously estimated that a 2 minute delay will result in a 17 mile tail back within 4 hours so it is unclear that a fast lane parking area to Hollingbourne will be sufficient given that the Customs time per vehicle is expected to increase by 18 minutes. A separate study by Imperial College for BBC South East has suggested that the tail back could go beyond Hollingbourne.
The text of the item on the Kent Online website reads as follows:
Plans to use stretches of the M20 as a holding area for lorries and to allow some lanes to remain open for other traffic are likely to be among new options to deal with Operation Stack.
And a more radical proposal that could involve parking lorries on the ‘fast’ lane of the M20 has also been under debate, KentOnline has been told.
Highways England is expected to set out options for dealing with Operation Stack within the next few weeks.
It was instructed to come up with contingency plans after the government was forced to abandon a controversial plan for a huge lorry park off the M20 at Stanford near Folkestone.
It did so before a judicial review into the proposal was due to be heard.
It is also searching for an alternative site for a lorry park.
Sources say work on strengthening the hard shoulder on the M20 coast-bound between junctions eight and nine is expected to get under way later this month.
KCC says it has been told nothing about the options coming forward but has already expressed reservations over any plan that would involve trying to keep non-HGV traffic on the motorway at the same time as using it to park lorries.
Speaking on a visit to Ashford this week, transport secretary Chris Grayling insisted any solutions kept Kent traffic moving in both directions along the M20.
“It is really important that we keep the motorway open in both directions on an interim basis and then we will work through longer term solutions,” he said.
“We have got two challenges that we are sorting out: one is to make sure we are ready for Brexit Day next year but I am very clear that we are [also] pursuing plans for a lorry park.
“I regret that environmental laws have made it more difficult for us to proceed at the speed he wanted.”
Asked when the interim plans would be revealed, he said: “We are doing the necessary consultation work on that and we are having to do the necessary environmental assessments. But we will have interim solutions in place for 2019 which I hope won’t be necessary because we will have a sensible free trade agreement.”
A source told KentOnline that the option of using the fast lane on the M20 as a holding area was strongly resisted by the county council.
At the time the government announced it was dropping the lorry park plan, Mr Grayling said the government would be “reassessing the scope, scale and location of our solutions” to Operation Stack.
Local MP Mrs Helen Whately has issued a press release that confirms it is the intention of the Government to use the M20 for Operation Stack after Brexit and this can be downloaded here Brexit-roads-press-release-HW030418.docx (33 downloads) . Mrs Whately, MP for Faversham and Mid Kent can be contacted at email@example.com
Mrs Whately has been asked to ensure that the any new surface is quieter than the existing concrete surface that was laid over 25 years ago. Successive MP’s and Governments have promised that the M20 between Junctions 8 and 9 will have a quieter surface but this has not happened to date. There have been recent media reports that a quieter surface will be applied between Junctions 3 and 4.
Pictured below is the M20 in Hollingbourne during Operation Stack in 2015 when vehicles were parked in the nearside lane. After Brexit the outside lane will be used. It is is assumed that the other two lanes and hard shoulder will be available for other traffic but the use of the outside lane will make it difficult for lorry drivers to leave their vehicles safely especially if they need to and are parked for hours or even days on end as was the case in 2015.