Operation Stack: Is there a political solution?

Operation Stack Image copyright PA
Image caption Operation Stack is implemented on the M20 when there are delays for freight crossing to France

For those living outside Kent, Operation Stack may not mean much, but to anyone who has been caught up in it in recent weeks they know the misery all too well.

Mile upon mile of lorries queued up on the M20 waiting to cross the English Channel - Operation Stack has now been implemented five times in the past three weeks.

It's estimated the measure has already cost Kent Police more than £700,000.

A spokesman for the government said it recognised the work done by the force but MPs have grown tired of assurances which have not been backed up so far by action.

'Heart of the debate'

Last night a group of 10 Kent MPs - from right across the county - met Home Secretary Theresa May to call for a government-led solution to the problem.

The Folkestone and Hythe Conservative MP Damian Collins told me it was a positive meeting.

"The home secretary absolutely understands the seriousness of the problem and the need for a strategic cross-governmental approach and she is clearly putting herself in the heart of this debate," he said.

She may be putting herself at the heart of the debate but so far no one from the Home Office has made themselves available for interview on BBC South East Today - on the ongoing problems caused by the situation in Calais - despite repeated requests.

As Mr Collins said: "What we need is a plan for when there are major strikes and delays - an emergency plan which can be brought into place quickly.

"What we want to see are urgent talks between the Home Office, the Department for Transport, Kent County Council and Kent Police to work on those ideas."

Mr Collins also told me MPs were due to attend a meeting at Kent County Council's HQ on Friday in the hope of getting some practical solutions to the problems this summer.

Mrs May has promised to create a secure zone in France to prevent lorries queuing on the open road, where they are vulnerable to migrants.

But this seems a long way off and doesn't tackle the immediate issue in Kent.

And while the situation in Calais shows no sign of abating, those in Kent continue to suffer considerable disruption.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The trucks queue on the hard shoulder and outside lane

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