Operation Stack Contents


The road network connecting Dover and Folkestone to the rest of the UK is of both local and national importance. Most of the road freight entering or leaving the UK does so through the Port of Dover or the Channel Tunnel. When cross channel services are disrupted—by bad weather, operational difficulties, industrial action, or security concerns—long queues of large goods vehicles (LGVs) can quickly build up.

The Kent Police use Operation Stack when disruption is prolonged. This involves the closure of parts of the M20 in stages to provide a place to hold queues of LGVs with the aim of keeping as much of the north and south bound carriageways open as possible. When Operation Stack is used it causes significant costs and inconvenience for a large part of the UK economy and it has a number of local impacts with the community in south-east Kent bearing the brunt. Hauliers and businesses incur costs associated with delay and loss of goods (such as perishable loads), drivers are stopped for long periods on a motorway with poor facilities, and the disruption affects local communities and the local economy.

Operation Stack was deployed on 31 days in 2015. The total number of days on which Operation Stack was used in 2015 was not unprecedented, but the number of consecutive days was unusual. As a result the Government came under pressure to find a way of mitigating the negative effects of Operation Stack and an off-road lorry park became the centre-piece of its response. It leased Stone Hill Park (formerly Manston Airport) as a short-term solution while consulting on plans for a permanent lorry park. The Government has set aside £250million to build a permanent lorry park near junction 11 of the M20, capable of holding around 4000 LGVs. This will require an area of land equivalent in size to 90 football pitches (about the same size as Disneyland in California). It would be on a scale unprecedented in Europe and there appears to be only one lorry park in the world on a comparable scale. A project of this scale requires full and careful evaluation and it must be clearly demonstrated that all possible alternatives have also been properly evaluated.

The Government’s decision to proceed was taken hastily in reaction to the events of the summer of 2015. There are considerable risks involved in spending such large sums and the speed of doing so appears to have left some of the usual best practice behind it. The Government is right to seek a solution to the level of disruption caused by Operation Stack but should do more to show clearly that the proposed lorry park will deliver the benefits promised and address the concerns raised in our Report.

The Government has not demonstrated clearly enough what options have been evaluated. Upgrading the M20 and/or the A2/M2, increasing the capacity of cross-channel services, building a network of smaller lorry parks, using technology to manage a system of virtual queuing, and moving more freight from road to rail, could provide alternatives to a lorry park.

Before proceeding with this scheme the Government ought to demonstrate the necessity of building the lorry park. It should examine:

This proposal should not be looked at in isolation. The Government’s support for modal shift, improvements to rail freight, improvements to the existing road network, and a decision on the Lower Thames Crossing need to be considered alongside each other. The Government should take a view on how these different improvements to the UK’s strategic transport infrastructure will affect each other and how they can be taken forward in ways that will deliver the best outcomes for the economy and for local communities.

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

25 May 2016