Nicola Debham, Regional Director for the South East at Highways England has written to local MP, Mrs Helen Whately about local safety concerns when Operation Brock was activated on the M20 from 25th March up to last weekend. The text of the letter that is dated 11th April before the Junction 8 coastbound slip road was reopened appears below.
Following Jesse Norman’s bi-lateral meeting on 3 April 2019, I wanted to write to you to reassure you of the safety considerations we are taking during Operation Brock.
The Operation Brock contraflow system has been implemented between junctions 8 and 9 of the M20 since 25 March. Although there have been incidents reported, which are regrettable, this is not dissimilar to other roadwork contraflows. In each case the incident response plans were followed, and the collision was safely contained within the contraflow without risk to other road users or incident responders.
As with any new road layout, Highways England actively monitors and reviews its performance including its safety record. Highways England has already reduced the spacing between cones on the coast-bound carriageway to reduce the risk of illegal parking of HGVs. Additionally, the junction 8 coast-bound entrance slipway, which is currently closed, is now staffed 24/7 to enable access to the M20 by the emergency services, if required.
We are looking at the circumstances of each incident and are keeping an open mind about things we could do to prevent any future incidents. However, there is no evidence that links these incidents to the road layout, or each other.
As you may be aware, we are currently in the process of removing the traffic management until such time that it may be required in the future, but we will continue to carry out 24/7 patrols of the network to ensure a safe and reliable service for our customers.
If you have any further questions regarding this or any other Highways England issue please feel free to contact us via our 24 hour Customer Contact Centre on 0300 123 5000.
Alternatively you can contact us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or access our website where information on all Highways England policies and procedures can be found: www.highwaysengland.co.uk
Many local motorists were concerned about the closure of the slip road and the contraflow system on the London bound side which has no refuges and where a number of incidents happened despite the 50mph speed limit over the 13 mile stretch between Junction 8 in Hollingbourne and Junction 9 in Ashford.
Operation Brock is expected to be activated indefinitely if and when the UK leaves the EU Customs Union after Brexit because of the need to store thousands of HGV’s awaiting Customs clearance at Dover and Eurotunnel. It is also expected that Operation Brock will affect other local traffic. Mrs Helen Whately, the MP for Faversham and Mid Kent which includes Hollingbourne is a supporter of Brexit and Mrs May’s deal.
Pictured below are vehicles passing in both directions in the contraflow system which has now been suspended. It is understood that the Highways Agency plan to continue the laned system on the London bound side indefinitely despite concerns about the narrowness of the lanes and the lack of safety refuges. Coastbound traffic will operate on the coastbound side and London bound vehicles will run next to the steel barrier in the picture below.