Lorry drivers risk being stuck in miles of tailbacks as they head to Dover after the Government abandoned plans for an alternative parking area.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced today the Government would no longer try to build a lorry holding park in Stanford West in Kent after a judicial review ruled against the plan.
The 3,600-capacity lorry park was an alternative to Operation Stack, which sees lorries park up on the M20 heading into Dover at times of cross-channel disruption.
In a written statement to MPs, Grayling confirmed no alternative to Operation Stack would be in place by the time the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.
The Government has been repeatedly warned that just minutes of delays to lorry movements at Dover caused by new customs arrangements could lead to miles of tail backs.
Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald MP said: “This failure to do the most basic preparatory work for a solution to Operation Stack has wasted time and taxpayers’ money and has compounded uncertainty over Brexit.
“The Port of Dover is hugely important to our national economy but this blunder risks trade and traffic grinding to a halt.
“That an ‘interim’ solution has been scheduled for the last possible moment before we leave the EU underlines the twin risks of a reckless mismanaging of Brexit and an incompetent Tory government.”
Operation Stack was first introduced in 1988, but its most extreme use came in the summer of 2015 when it was deployed for over 30 days following French ferry employee industrial action and migrant activity in France.
The risks of further episodes caused by added customs checks after Brexit have been flagged up the deputy chief executive of Britain’s Freight Transport Association.
Speaking to the Financial Times in October James Hookham said: “If you add an average of two minutes to customs processing, you get a 17-mile queue [from Dover] almost back to Ashford.
“Another four minutes takes the queue back to Maidstone, six minutes back to the M25, eight minutes and you are up to the Dartford crossing and Essex.”
The warning was also made by Chancellor Philip Hammond, who told a Lords Economic Affairs Committee in September: “Anyone who’s visited Dover will know that Dover operates as a flow-through port and volumes of trade at Dover could not accommodated if goods had to be held for inspection even, I suspect, if they were held for minutes, it would still impede the operation of the port.”
In his written statement today, Grayling said Highways England would be looking into an “interim solution” for dealing with tailbacks to be in place by March 2019.
However, this will still involve lorries being parked up on the M20.
He said: “This could, for example, be through holding HGVs in the centre of the motorway rather than on the coastbound carriageway.
“Different technologies ranging from steel barriers to moveable barrier systems could be deployed to deliver these solutions.”
Folkestone and Hythe MP Damian Collins described the decision as “disappointing”.