Feature, Freight News, Road, Logistics

Europe’s largest truckstop opens in Ashford

[ December 3, 2021   //   ]

Under-Secretary of State for Transport Baroness Vere of Norbiton officially opened the UK’s newest truckstop in Ashford on 3 December.
Ashford International Truckstop, which has been developed by GSE Building and Civil Engineering, is located at Waterbrook Park, near (J10/10A) of the M20 offering space for up to 660 trucks, which makes it the largest not only in the UK but the whole of Europe.
Facilities include a 24-hour restaurant and café offering meals at around 20% less than motorway services, a licenced bar, games room, self-service laundry, fully equipped gym and electric hook ups for refrigerated trucks. The truckstop is surrounded by acoustic fencing.
Cutting the ribbon at the new site – which will host its first trucks on Tuesday 7 December – Baroness Vere said: “I think we need quite a few more of these”. The poor quality of roadside facilities has been identified as one of the barriers to attracting people into truck driving. She added that the latest government spending review had created a pot of money to create more facilities of similar quality.
Meanwhile, she urged other truckstop operators to visit Ashford to see how standards of roadside facilities could be raised.
Ashford International Truckstop general manager, Darren Smith, said that the new site in the Sevington area of Ashford would replace the existing 300-360 vehicle capacity truckstop nearby, also owned by GSE. The old site was described as the Eurotunnel truckstop, and while it would also handle ferry traffic, it offered preferential rates to trucks using the Eurotunnel shuttle. The new site will offer the same tariff to all users, said Mr Smith.
The old truckstop site, which will be redeveloped for housing, although it will be available over the Christmas period as a potential emergency overflow site in the event of threatened French disruption to cross-Channel services, giving a total of up to 1,000 spaces, said Mr Smith.
He hoped that the new site would help address the problem of illegal truck parking in the borough – estimated at around 200 vehicles daily. A booking app, along with efforts by the borough and Kent County Council would encourage illegally-parked truckers to go to the new Ashford site, Mr Smith added, pointing out that many insurers were also now insisting that trucks were parked at secure sites. The Ashford site fully conforms with new EU Safe & Secure Truck Parking Areas (SSTPA) Standard, he said.
The site is also close to HMRC’s Sevington Inland Border Facility and four customs agents have opened offices adjacent to the new truckstop. Further space is available for office and industrial use and a major parcels operator is said to be poised to announce a new depot on an adjacent 20-acre site.
Darren Smith said truck drivers would be able to park at the truckstop while awaiting customs clearance or dealing with other formalities.
The site will also handle trailers on Eurotunnel’s new unaccompanied service.
He added that GSE would be keen to develop further truckstops in Kent and the south-east, possibly on the M2 or in the Medway area, but finding suitable sites was a struggle: “Unfortunately we have not had the support of local authorities and we still struggle to find places.”
He added that allocating sites for truckstops might be an issue for central government and that he had raised the matter with Baroness Vere. Meanwhile, he said: “We will go on looking.”