Last week the government announced it will not be contesting the judicial review that had been lodged against the planned Operation Stack lorry park close to junction 11 of the M20. It is very frustrating that this decision had to be made, as it means further delay in delivering the long term solution to the congestion caused by lorries trying to leave the country through the Port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel, when either is not operating effectively. This does not mean that the Department for Transport has given up on the idea of the lorry park. The problem remains that if we want to keep the M20 motorway open in both directions, when delays would necessitate the introduction of the Operation Stack measures, we need an off road area to hold the lorries that are waiting to cross the channel.
The government will now re-start the planning process to determine the best location and design for the Operation Stack lorry park, and is expecting to report back on this in the New Year. This could mean that the same location to the west of Stanford village and the Stop 24 motorway services is selected again as the most appropriate location. The design and planning for this lorry park should also take into account the need for more 24 hour lorry parking in East Kent. This will give the police a location where they can move on lorries which are found fly parking in laybys and country lanes across the county, and which create such a mess.
It is expected that the new lorry park will be open by 2021, and in the meantime we need additional infrastructure to support our roads, should Operation Stack be called before then. One of the reasons that we haven’t seen a full scale Operation Stack in the last couple of years is because of extra lorry waiting space that has been created at the Channel Tunnel and Port of Dover sites. This is already filling up and the amount of road freight on our roads is still growing. Alongside the planning for a new lorry park the government will also look at additional measures that can be put in place during the interim period before the lorry park opens. Again, it will make an announcement on this next year, but this additional infrastructure could include the return of the moveable concrete barrier to the M20, which would allow for both lorry queuing when required, and a two-way flow of traffic.
On Monday this week, the government introduced to the House of Commons the Taxation (Cross Border Trade) Bill. This creates the legal power for the government to re-introduce customs controls and charges on goods entering the UK after we leave the European Union. Of course, we hope that these powers at not necessary, and that we can achieve an agreement for open free trade with the EU as a non-member state. However, we have to plan ahead, in case there are any difficulties in securing such a deal. It also means we need to plan for the physical infrastructure we might need, like the lorry park, in case leaving the EU causes any delays in the movement of goods back and forth across the channel.