Kent

Operation Stack: 'Disneyland-sized' lorry park to be built at Stanford West

Operation Stack Image copyright PA
Image caption Operation Stack was imposed 32 times last summer

The site of a "Disneyland-sized" lorry park designed to ease tailbacks caused by Operation Stack has been announced.

Spaces at the 3,600-space park, in Stanford West, Kent, will be available from next summer in a bid to reduce congestion on the M20.

During Operation Stack, which was in force 32 times last summer, the motorway was turned into an HGV park for up to 5,000 lorries.

Critics have accused the government of being "too hasty" in its plans.

Stack was activated last year when cross-Channel services were disrupted by the Calais migrant crisis and French ferry worker strikes.

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'Not a solution'

It was blamed for widespread congestion on the motorway and in the surrounding area - sparking concerns for the local economy and hauliers' income.

Ministers previously said it would provide up to £250m for a permanent lorry area.

In June, the contract to build the site was awarded to Balfour Beatty.

Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said it was "dismayed" at the decision to build the lorry park at Sanford.

CPRE Kent tweeted: "Spending £250m on lorry park the size of Disneyland in Kent countryside is not the solution to Operation Stack - dismayed at today's decision."

Last month the Transport Select Committee listed possible alternatives, including upgrading the M20, the A2/M2, increasing the capacity of cross-Channel services, or building a network of smaller lorry parks.

Image copyright Highways England
Image caption Two sites were proposed for the lorry park to the north of the M20 near Stanford and Westenhanger

'Last resort'

During a public consultation, two thirds of those who took part said Stanford West should be the preferred site over the alternative - north of junction 11 at Westenhanger.

New entry and exit slip roads will be built on the eastbound carriageway of the M20, providing direct access to the lorry park, the Department for Transport said.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, said: "Operation Stack is only ever used as a last resort but we recognise the impact it has on roads in Kent, and are determined to deliver an alternative solution.

"The new lorry area by the M20 will deliver better journeys for drivers and will not only support the region's economy but also businesses as far away as Scotland that rely on the M20 to access the Port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel."

Operation Stack

In numbers

3,600

lorries can use the proposed park

  • Ministers have pledged £250m

  • In summer 2015 Operation Stack was implemented 32 times

  • The cost to the Kent economy each day was estimated to have been £1.45m

  • Operation Stack was first introduced as a temporary measure in 1988

Matthew Balfour, the Kent County Council cabinet member for environment and transport said: "For years we have argued that a solution to the problem of Operation Stack - blighting not only Kent's residents and businesses but much of the UK - needs to be considered.

"Last year's Stack had an estimated cost to the Kent and Medway economy of around £1.45 million a day and across the country it was estimated to be about £250 million a day."

The Freight Transport Association has welcomed the announcement, saying the lorry park will "end the misery for thousands of residents and businesses".

Natalie Chapman, from the association, said: "However, the design of the lorry site is crucial to ensure that trucks can be quickly moved to the port and Eurotunnel as soon as capacity is available.

"It is important that the lorry park doesn't become out of sight, out of mind. We still need to tackle the causes of Operation Stack."

What is Operation Stack ?

Image copyright Reuters
  • Stretches of the M20 in southeast Kent are used to park freight bound for the Channel Tunnel or the Port of Dover
  • Implemented when a cross-Channel service is severely disrupted by bad weather, fire, operational problems, industrial protests or migrant action at Calais
  • Introduced as temporary measure in 1988
  • Used 48 times between 1997 and January 2015
  • Typically lasts five or six days

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