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Transport User Voice – August 2018 – Preventing road disruption in Kent

31 July 2018

Government recently announced a fresh approach to Operation Stack, where stretches of the M20 in Kent are used to park lorries held up when there is disruption to cross-Channel ferry and tunnel services. We welcome the continued desire to avoid a return to the disruption seen in Summer 2015 and the Government’s decision to ask challenged Highways England to find a way to avoid closing the motorway in future, in all but exceptional circumstances.

Further to this, Highways England has just completed a public information exercise about the general principles of any solution.  The company asked if the solution should be on the road, or away from it, and – if they are to build one – should a large lorry holding area be close to the ports or further into Kent? These issues matter to users of the motorways and major ‘A’ roads in Kent, including lorry drivers, but also to local people going about their business in cars, vans and buses.

Transport Focus has played a major role in understanding the challenges when there is disruption in cross-Channel services, and what users need from any solution. In January 2017 we published A Safe Place to Park setting out what lorry drivers want. We explored, through over 200 interviews with British and foreign drivers, what they would want from a single large lorry holding area, as was then proposed; and how the experience of the now-permanent queuing system on the A20 approaching Dover (the ‘Traffic Access Protocol’ or TAP) could be improved. We highlighted the need for better information for drivers, as well as better security and on-site facilities in the lorry holding area. We stressed the importance of paying closer attention to the welfare needs of drivers, who might be stuck in their cabs for hours, or even days.

Transport Focus has responded to the recent consultation drawing on the evidence we have already collected. But we have urged Highways England to make maximum effort to engage with road users who are directly affected by the problems along this key corridor, whether local or from further afield.

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