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Operation Stack

On the Business Bunker Radio Show of 28th July we had a “tweet in” from our Kent based listeners discussing Operation Stack.

For those that dont know, when there are problems or delays with the Eurotunnel or the Ports of Dover & Calais the volume of freight traffic is so heavy that the M20 motorway is closed and used to park lorries. This situation has been going on for 30 years now.

On particularly bad days the motorway is closed in both directions. As you can imagine this causes road chaos in over half of the very large county of Kent.

During July 2015 ( the height of the tourist season too) strikes by French port workers, fatalities and injuries in the tunnel and people entering the French end of the tunnel on foot ( reports of 1500 people on evening Tuesday 28th July) have caused Operation Stack to be implemented for most of July.

This is causing enormous financial and productivity issues to Kent’s 58,000 businesses, it causes huge problems for residents and the public going about their daily businesses as rural roads, country lanes and “rat runs” fill with traffic trying to avoid the major artery roads.

The Federation of Small Businesses, Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce & other business support organisations have been lobbying hard with the agencies concerned, yet still after 30 years we are no nearer a permanent solution to this damaging and destructive problem. In fact we dont even have a better temporary solution on the table.

When Operation Stack first started back in the early 1980’s the Highways Agency operated a contra flow system in order to keep traffic flowing. One of the reasons that Stack has caused far more problems in recent years is that Highways England refuse to implement contra flow on safety grounds. This on the face of it is an odd stance as H.E. use contraflow systems in many of their motorway maintenance programmes. However as we never hear from Graham Dalton Chief Exec of H.E. we dont really have a chance to find out more detail. H.E. have to date made no suggestions on how to improve the situation and government, local MPs and Kent County Council all tell us its Highways England that are the responsible agency for dealing with this issue.

Our listeners have made a number of temporary & permanent solution ideas


This is the motorway link road from M25 ( anticlockwise, East bound ) to the M20

The M26 has the longest distance between exit slip roads in the UK at 18 miles. To close the M26 has very little major impact as traffic can continue around M25 to Swanley and join the A20 or M20 there or continue on further and join the A2 or M2.

County Show Ground

The County Showground at Detling set between junction 7 M20 ( normally the last exit before Op Stack) and the M2 junction 5 . The site covers 200 acres and has toilet/shower and other facilities on site.

Manston Airport

Located just off the M2/A2 Manston Airport has ceased operation and was formerly a freight airport primarily. It has a large amount of parking area as well as disused runway, Terminal buildings, toilets and food outlets.

Folkestone Racecourse

At junction 11 of M20 at Westenhanger this former racecourse is now no longer used. It is next door to the Services 24 truck stop.

Other areas

It was also felt that a lot of freight traffic could be “stacked” before it reaches Kent, however this could pose issues of how to release the traffic when the tunnel/ports reopen

Permanent solution idea

As for more permanent solutions. We currently understand that some agencies are seeking to establish one huge lorry parking area for in excess of 3,000 lorries. Most of our listeners felt this was the wrong solution. Gaining entrance and exit could cause as many problems as it solves and most local residents not surprisingly get upset about having such a huge lorry park dumped on their door step.

Most peoples favoured solution is to open a  4 or 5 smaller truck stops to complement the 2 private ones that already exist at Ashford International & Hythe.

Each park being a permanent offering , which would also address another growing problem which is trucks parking up in residential areas because they are hitting their permissible driving times.

This solution could be a public/private venture that includes agencies and farmers/landowners making land available for what could be a revenue generating scheme. These smaller stops along the M20 & M2 could also function in a similar way to the French Aire de repos et de service autoroutiere so effective on French motorways.

We could also make greater use of technology based solutions to announce warnings of likelihood of immanent closer, staged directions to various parking areas and to implement the Stack ticketing system to call forward trucks for embarkation . These message can be relayed in a number of languages which could ease the confusion sometimes caused by some drivers poor or non existent use of English language.

Whilst its difficult to legislate for industrial action, accidents and weather issues one of the major reasons for the increasing frequency of Op Stack is human activity with people entering the tunnel on foot and “train hanging” from the French side of the tunnel. The UK and French governments must as a matter of urgency increase security at the tunnel entrance, not least of which to reduce the high number of fatalities and injuries now occurring.

The businesses of Kent call upon Graham Dalton of Highways England, The department of Transport, the Dept Business Innovation and Skills, Kent County Council and the Prime Minister to seek an urgent solution to this major problem