Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Road Haulage Boss Criticises Government Spending on Reserve Lorry Parking

Thousands of Pounds per Day Spent on Unsuitable Location
Shipping News Feature
UK – Having met with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and Transport Minister Jesse Norman last week to discuss a variety of matters, particularly the well-known shortage of talent in the sector and a post-Brexit Land Transport Agreement, Road Haulage Association (RHA) chief executive, Richard Burnett was also keen to raise the subject of suitable parking facilities for commercial vehicles.

After highlighting the need for urgent action to tackle the shortage of HGV drivers (currently estimated at 45,000) and detailing how government support for the Road to Logistics initiative would benefit both the industry and the economy, came the thorny issue of lorry parks, something the RHA boss pointed out continues to impact on driver welfare and communities, and creates criminal and security issues.

This week however the RHA says it is dismayed to learn that a Freedom of Information request covering the period August 2015 to 15 December 2017 shows the government has spent nearly £6 million to rent Kent’s Manston Airport as an emergency lorry parking area if Operation Stack is used. The tactic was introduced to avoid the chaos of 2015 when lorries en route to the Channel ports were held on the approach roads and the RHA submitted an eleven page dossier to the government highlighting the problems facing HGV drivers, some of whom were stuck at the side of the road for over 24 hours with no proper facilities.

Subsequently the plans for a 3,600 space lorry park alongside the M20 were submitted but rejected last November when it was found the government had failed to follow its own planning procedures and undertake a full environmental study prior to proceeding, a mistake which Mr Burnett at the time said he found ‘beyond belief’. At last week’s meeting the RHA boss urged the Transport Secretary to not allow local authorities to increase unclamping fees in areas where there is a lack of parking and he returned to this subject again in a statement, saying:

“Manston Airport was only supposed to be a short-term contingency following the mayhem we saw on the M20 during the summer of 2015, but two and a half years later the taxpayer is still footing the bill for a facility that’s never been used. It’s a completely unsuitable location as the road network in that part of Kent is not geared up to accommodating hundreds of HGVs, yet the Government is spending £12,000 a day to keep it available when it should be investing in proper parking facilities.

“Following the Stanford debacle and at a time when lorry drivers parking in Ashford are being punished with huge hikes in clamping release fees, the Department for Transport needs to find a permanent solution quickly. The taxpayer and the haulier are suffering, we need secure lorry parks, not more sticking plasters and punitive measures.”

With criticisms such as this the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling MP, may be regretting his decision to appear as guest speaker at the RHA Annual Lunch, the 70th such event, at the London Hilton on Park Lane, on Thursday 12 July.