The delay in the Brexit departure date means that the emergency measures on the M20 can be taken off—or does it? Like many others I have been pleased that we are back to normal three-lane running on the coastbound carriageway (with annoying exceptions for the cross-over points) but less pleased that the barrier remains on the London-bound carriageway.
My first act on returning to Parliament last Tuesday was to put down some questions to the Transport Secretary asking when, and using what criteria, we can expect the motorway to be back to full working order.
Highways England have said that they need “a high level of confidence” that no disruption is expected before they will remove the barrier. I am not being facetious when I say that this test may never be met. Quite apart from the possibility at any time during the winter that weather may disrupt ferry sailings, there is always the possibility of French strike action or a refugee crisis to delay Channel crossings.
As a result there will always be an excuse for Highways England to keep the barrier there as a permanent feature. This would clearly be unacceptable, which is why I am putting some pressure on the Department of Transport to make sure they are not filing this as a problem solved.
Kent MPs continue to have regular meetings with the Roads Minister Jesse Norman about this and other Brexit-related topics, so we do have a forum to air these concerns.
This is particularly frustrating for two reasons. Firstly, Brock is clearly better than the old Operation Stack which closed the M20 completely and at its worse led to congestion and chaos in much of East Kent. Secondly, when it was first suggested the barrier was called a “quick movable barrier”. We now find it takes four weeks to remove. It must not become a permanent feature.