Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Government Plan for Giant Freight Truck Park Welcomed by Road Haulage Community

However Local Animosity Will Draw Legal Challenge to Operation Stack Solution
Shipping News Feature
UK – The spectre of Operation Stack still looms large over the County of Kent today after the government announced it will solve the problems of thousands of stationary trucks, such as those on thirty two days last year, which caused the closure of the M20 motorway and brought the county’s roads to a standstill. Although today’s announcement that £250 million is to be spent on a lorry park for up to 3,600 vehicles was greeted warmly by such as the Freight Transport Association (FTA) and the Road Haulage Association (RHA), for those living around the site of the proposed park in the village of Stanford West this was the worst possible news.

The site of the proposed truck park is amongst some truly beautiful countryside in the so called Garden of England, and already opponents have said they will launch a legal challenge to the decision which is due to have phase one completed by summer 2017. They also point out that last year’s disruptions, which cost millions of pounds, was caused by a ‘perfect storm’ when militant French ex ferry workers disrupted services and migrants in Calais and surrounds descended on ferry and Channel Tunnel terminals, a situation they hope never to be repeated. Last month the Transport Select Committee made alternative suggestions to solve the problems including more cross channel services and various motorway upgrades and called the park ‘Disney sized’ and questioned if it was a ‘proportionate and appropriate solution’ to the problem. Today Committee Chair Louise Ellman MP said:

“It is very disappointing that the government has failed to answer the committee’s concerns. Ministers must explain why spending £250m on a car park the size of Disneyland is the best way to resolve the problems raised by Operation Stack. We have not been told how this huge lorry park will fit into the UK’s strategic transport infrastructure.

”It will be a wasted opportunity if the government has not considered modal shift, improvements in rail freight, the existing road network and the expected decision on the lower Thames crossing. Before a spade is put in the ground, the government must show it has given proper consideration to all possible alternatives.”

The area chosen sits adjacent to the M20 and is in an area which has been a major transport route since time immemorial, sitting as it does alongside the old Roman route of Stone Street. The FTA’s delight at the announcement was palpable with Head of Policy for London and the South East, Natalie Chapman saying:

”The FTA has been pressing for a permanent solution to the problems caused by Operation Stack so we’re delighted that the new lorry area could be ready by next summer. This will end the misery for thousands of residents and businesses whose lives have been repeatedly disrupted by Operation Stack on the M20, especially last summer when it was implemented 32 times. However, the design of the lorry site is crucial to ensure that trucks can be quickly moved to the port and Eurotunnel as soon as capacity is available.

”Of course, we would rather avoid Operation Stack altogether and keep the wheels of industry turning, so it is important that the lorry park doesn’t become out of sight, out of mind. We still need to tackle the causes of Operation Stack. It would be a bonus if the site could accommodate overnight lorry parking as this is also a serious problem in the county. However, this must not be at the cost of the smooth-running of the site for Operation Stack.”

Ms Chapman’s comments were not well received either by local residents or owners of adjacent truck parks who can see their existing business disappearing. It does beg the question as to how much use the park will actually get when traffic is flowing normally, as is generally the case. Also when this happens are there any alternative uses that might benefit the local community to which it can be put?

Darker thoughts came from one cynical local who did not wish to be named. With the recent Brexit decision, and a potential French President in waiting threatening to remove the bilateral agreement with the UK as regards Border Control Officers operating in one another’s territories, mention was made that a massive, securely fenced region with refreshment facilities for thousands of people not far from the Channel Ports and the Eurotunnel entrance, might prove an ideal site for a migrant camp to parallel the infamous Jungle outside Calais.