The running sore that is the continuation of Operation Brock of the M20, restricting the London-bound carriageway to two lanes, is going to continue until November at least, I am sorry to report.
I have been pursuing this relentlessly with transport ministers since the Brexit date was put back and have now received a formal reply to a Parliamentary Question from the Roads Minister Jesse Norman. This says that “The M20 barrier will remain under regular review over the coming months, but it is unlikely to be removed before the end of October.”
I will be speaking to transport ministers further on this matter in the coming days, but my real fear is that Highways England, who advise ministers on these matters, can continue to find reasons to keep the barrier in place. In Jesse Norman’s answer he also says the barrier will remain in place until further notice “to allow for the option of deploying the contraflow at short notice during times of Cross-Channel disruption, caused by bad weather or industrial action as in the past, for example.”
By the time we get to the end of October the weather will, I freely predict, be getting worse. I hope (and will be arguing forcefully) that Highways England do not use this as an excuse to keep the barrier there all winter, and indeed all future winters as well.
Those of us who argued for years that Operation Stack, closing the M20 altogether, was a terrible response to cross- Channel disruption were pleased that Operation Brock promised a more intelligent response, with much less disruption to the daily lives of those living here.
However, Brock is meant to be a response to a temporary emergency, not a permanent state of affairs. I will be making this case to the Department of Transport this week, and apparently for some time to come.