One of the key points concerning HGV drivers to have come out of Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn statement was the announcement of additional funding to help alleviate the on-going strain to Operation Stack.
As we discussed on these pages back in the summer, Operation Stack has been stretched to, and indeed, beyond its breaking point on the occasions that it’s been brought into effect throughout the year. Prolonged industrial action in the Port of Calais and ongoing security issues surrounding the migrant crisis meant that Operation Stack came into effect over long stretches of the summer, serving only to emphasise that the measure seems to no longer be up to the task of coping with the numbers of lorries making inter-continental journeys.
Having to contend with more than double the capacity for which it was originally intended through prolonged periods in the summer meant that the roads and motorway networks around Dover and into Kent as a whole saw some extraordinary levels of congestion with HGV drivers delayed and stuck for days with insufficient facilities. As a result it brought further calls from the Freight Transport Association (FTA) and Road Haulage Association (RHA) for government assistance to alleviate a system deemed no longer fit for purpose.
New Funding Announced
In his statement on 25th November, Chancellor Osborne announced that, following discussions with MPs in the Kent area, the Government were going to release £250 million to help relieve the ever-growing pressure on the roads and motorways throughout the county.
New Lorry Park
The announced funding is proposed to be used for the creation of a new lorry park where HGV drivers can park up during times of disruption. This is intended to ease the main issue of Operation Stack which currently uses the carriageways of the M20 as a temporary parking facility during times of disruption. The by-product of which has meant major road blocks on adjacent A roads and alternate routes as well as drivers having to remain with their lorries in locations that are seriously ill-suited to the task. As Thanet North MP Roger Gale pointed out in the BBC report of the announcement, the new park should alleviate the problem of drivers having to use lay-bys and verges for essential functions in the absence of actually facilities.
The new lorry park, at a location yet to be decided but likely to be around the Stanford area, should provide a much more fit for purpose facility for HGV drivers, with adequate facilities in times of long-delay. It should also remove at least some of the requirement for motorway lanes being used as a parking zone.
Quoted on the BBC website, Director of Motoring at the RAC, Steve Gooding welcomed the move, making the point that lorries needed a purpose built parking facility as opposed to using a motorway.
Cautious Welcome from the Industry
Indeed, the announcement has been generally greeted by cautious welcome from industry, seeing this as a positive move, whilst suggesting that more could still be done to provide further help to the drivers.
FTA Director of Policy, Karen Dee has welcomed the new funding, declaring the organisation to be: “delighted that the Chancellor has recognised the devastating impact of Operation Stack on the logistics industry and its customers and we look forward to developing a permanent solution with purpose-built facilities for drivers.”
In addition, she also welcomed news of additional monetary support to infrastructural road issues, such as pothole repair, also announced in the statement.