Our Man - Highways England and Operation Stack

This week I bring good news and bad news. The good news is that Highways England has been briefing me about their new plans to avoid Operation Stack. The bad news is that Highways England has had to brief me about new plans because their last plan had to be withdrawn after they failed the legal hurdles.

The upshot is that we are about to go around this very familiar course once again. Those who only moved to the area in the last couple of years may wonder what the fuss is about, as we have not seen the devastating effects on traffic of closing the M20 to park lorries since 2015. Everyone else will remember very well the chaos and expense caused by that particularly long-lasting version of Stack and will, like me, be determined never to see it again.

The latest consultation is for a permanent solution. Inevitably this will be some years away so the only really good news is that they are about to trial an interim solution. This involved strengthening the hard shoulders so that they can take traffic, and then running two lanes each way on one side of the motorway, with lorries parked on the other.

It’s not perfect, and of course lower speed limits will be needed, but at least all the junctions will be kept open, so the worst of the 2015 conditions would be avoided.

As for the long-term solution, I see no reason why the agreed area last time should not be the favourite option, with Highways England this time doing the proper environmental assessment first. Also, I would like to see the A2 dualled all the way into Dover, to give an M2/A2 alternative for lorries to the M20/A20 route. Most of all, I want them to get on with it.

There is an information session at Ashford Business Point on June 26th from 2pm, so do go along if you can.