Freight News, Road

Manston is no long term solution to Dover woes, says industry

[ August 5, 2015   //   ]

There has been a mixed reaction by Government plans to turn the former Manston Airport near Ramsgate into a holding area for trucks waiting to cross the Channel in Kent.

The Port of Dover said that while it welcomes Government action to alleviate the disruption, it warned that a heavy goods vehicle holding area at the former Manston Airport site for Port of Dover bound traffic “is neither proven to work nor a permanent solution in itself.”

Chief executive, Tim Waggott, said: “While it is welcome news that the Government is taking further action to alleviate the significant knock on effects in south east Kent caused by the ongoing problems in Calais and at Eurotunnel, attention should not slip away from finding a solution that provides lasting resilience at this nationally important strategic freight corridor. We have some concerns over the practicalities of the solution proposed but remain committed to working with all our partners to maintain traffic fluidity.”

Manston is in fact about 20 miles from either Dover, with part of the route on two-lane roads, some of it through or close to built-up areas. It is very close to the port of Ramsgate, but that no longer handles regular ferry services. The airport, at one time a major hub for freighter aircraft, was controversially closed about a year ago after Stagecoach founder Ann Gloag sold it to property developers.

The Freight Transport Association said that Manston could provide respite for local businesses and residents, but a permanent solution is urgently needed. FTA said that, according to the Department for Transport, the disused airport will be trialled as an addition to stage 1 of Operation Stack, which is put in place between junctions 8-9 on the M20, instead of using further stretches of motorway.

Matrix signs will direct trucks bound for the Port of Dover to Manston while those travelling via the Channel Tunnel will queue on the M20. One coast-bound lane on the M20 may be left open for local traffic. The DfT has stressed that the measure is temporary and will be implemented on a trial basis. Police will have jurisdiction to direct trucks onto the site, where stacking will be managed by the Army.
FTA deputy chief executive, James Hookham, said: “Anything that relieves pressure on the M20 and surrounding roads is to be welcomed, especially at the busiest time of year for freight and tourist traffic. We have been calling on Highways England and the Government to come up with a solution and this temporary measure could alleviate the problem.

“However, this is part of a much bigger issue encompassing the ongoing unrest in Calais and the overall lack of rest facilities for drivers in Kent. We would urge the Government to continue to work with their French counterparts to address the migrant crisis and also to address the need for more truck stops so drivers can take their rests in safety and with decent facilities.”

Highways England has already ruled out a contraflow on the London-bound M20 to ease traffic congestion on safety grounds.

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