Thursday, June 2, 2016

Road Haulage Sector Concerned Over Delay to Operation Stack Freight Truck Park Decision

Transport Committee says Government has Abandoned Best Practice
Shipping News Feature
UK – The government has come under fire from the Commons Select Committee on Transport over plans to build a giant lorry park in Kent to alleviate some of the problems caused by Operation Stack, the scheme deployed to park trucks along the M20 motorway when there are delays at the coastal ports, principally Dover, due to weather, congestion or more recently, the migrant crisis and industrial action by striking ferry workers which led to days of chaos with drivers spending hours stuck in queues stretching over 35 miles. The government stands accused by the Committee of abandoning best practice in its haste to resolve a situation which regularly hits Britain’s road haulage freight trade with estimated daily costs of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Although the Committee agrees a solution is essential it concludes the decision to create a single truck park ‘the size of 90 football pitches’ was ‘rushed’. The report follows on from the original inquiry which ran from October 2015 up to the end of February this year and goes on to request ministers to prove their case in various ways including:

  • the cost-benefit ratios of alternatives to the lorry park
  • whether the lorry park is a proportionate and appropriate solution to the scale and frequency of disruption associated with Operation Stack
  • the environmental and social costs that the lorry park will impose on the locality
  • the value of any benefits that the lorry park will bring locally and to the UK economy
  • the long-term costs of operating, maintaining, renewing and, eventually, decommissioning the lorry park

Links to the report and the findings of the Committee can be accessed HERE and launching the report, Louise Ellman MP, Chair of the Committee said:

"The disruption caused by Operation Stack affects many people in Kent but this is not just a local issue. The routes to Dover and Folkestone are important nationally, they carry more than 80% of the road freight entering or leaving the UK. The Government has settled on a lorry park as the best solution but what they are proposing is on a vast scale and could cost up to a quarter of a billion pounds.

”Ministers need to do more in order to justify this spending and it should do more to demonstrate why a lorry park roughly the size of Disneyland in California is better than the alternatives we heard about during our inquiry. We are not saying that the Government should not press ahead with its proposal, only that it has more work to do to persuade us of the business case for this investment."

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has expressed concern that the Committee’s comments may cause delays in implementing a scheme which it feels is essential after the chaotic situation we saw so many times last year with drivers stranded for many hours with no access to refreshments or facilities. The FTA says these discussions could prolong the misery suffered by Kent residents and insists there needs to be a suitable alternative to implementing Operation Stack. Malcolm Bingham, FTA Head of Road Network Management Policy said:

“The implementation of the queuing system which we have seen on numerous occasions causes major disruption, not only for the drivers in Operation Stack but also for Kent’s businesses and residents, and we need a solution. There needs to be a managed flow of traffic to the port and tunnel. If a large lorry area is the answer, then the residents of Kent deserve an explanation of what the need is and how it will work. Equally if that is not the solution, any alternatives need to be fully explored.

“We want to keep the wheels of industry turning so it is essential to manage the impact of cross-Channel disruption in the best possible way and involve the logistics industry in the creation of the solution. We must urgently press ahead with a plan that will protect drivers, their vehicles and the £89 billion of trade which passes through this route each year. Additionally the UK and French governments must work together to ensure that we do not have another summer of discontent with striking workers which was one of the main causes of the chaos we saw in Kent last year.”