Freight News, Road

Dover lorry park plan needs thinking through, says transport committee

[ June 1, 2016   //   ]

The House of Commons Transport Committee says more should be done to demonstrate that proposal for a lorry park to alleviate the effects of disruption at the port of Dover will deliver, in its Operation Stack report. However, the Government is right to seek a solution to the problem, it says.

It added that the decision to proceed at pace with the proposal for a lorry park “had left behind some of the usual best practice when spending such large sums of money.”

The Committee found that the Government’s decision to proceed was rushed in reaction to the events of the summer of 2015 when Operation Stack was used longer than ever before.

The Government has set aside £250million to build a permanent lorry park near junction 11 of the M20. Capable of holding around 4,000 large goods vehicles, it would be the largest in the world requiring  will require an area of land equivalent in size to 90 football pitches.

The Committee called on Transport Ministers to demonstrate the necessity of building the lorry park, including the cost-benefit ratios of alternatives, whether it is a proportionate and appropriate solution to the scale and frequency of Operation Stack, the environmental and social costs on the locality and the long-term costs of operating, maintaining, renewing and, eventually, decommissioning the lorry park.

Committee chair, Louise Ellman MP, said: “The Government has settled on a lorry park as the best solution but what they are proposing is on a vast scale and could cost up to a quarter of a billion pounds…We are not saying that the Government should not press ahead with its proposal, only that it has more work to do to persuade us of the business case for this investment.”

Opinion in the freight industry on the lorry park appears to be divided. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) said that it was concerned that the Committee’s recommendations “could prolong the misery suffered by Kent residents during Operation Stack.” While it understands the concerns expressed, there needs to be a suitable alternative to implementing Operation Stack on the M20 in Kent.

FTA head of road network management policy, Malcolm Bingham, said: “The implementation of the queuing system which we have seen on numerous occasions causes major disruption, not only for the drivers in Operation Stack but also for Kent’s businesses and residents, and we need a solution.

“There needs to be a managed flow of traffic to the port and tunnel.  If a large lorry area is the answer, then the residents of Kent deserve an explanation of what the need is and how it will work. Equally if that is not the solution, any alternatives need to be fully explored.”

However, at a recent committee hearing, Eurotunnel appeared to be cool towards the idea, preferring solutions that would keep lorries on the motorway system to a large off-highway park. Local opinion is also divided, with some residents favouring the idea, while others are strongly against it.

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