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Operation Stack update

What is Operation Stack?

Operation Stack is implemented by Kent Police and other agencies to park (or ‘stack’) lorries on the M20 when they are unable to cross the English Channel via the Channel Tunnel or the Port of Dover. It has four levels depending on the length of delay and the amount of freight traffic. It is kept in operation until the resumption of timetabled services. This has led to large sections of the M20 being closed for several days and causing widespread disruption to motorway traffic and surrounding areas.

Why we are concerned

We started representing users of the Strategic Road Network (SRN) in England in March 2015 following the passage of the Infrastructure Act. At the height of disruption to cross-Channel traffic in July 2015, we were concerned about the impact of Operation Stack, not only on cross-Channel journeys, but domestic travel within Kent. We received representations from trade associations, road haulage companies and local bus operators who had become increasing concerned about the frequent implementation of Operation Stack and the four-stage approach that had only recently been introduced.

What we are working on

We needed to understand the issues and experiences of users actually affected by Operation Stack, so we began talking to local road haulage companies, bus operators and trade associations. It quickly became apparent from our discussions there were several recurring themes between all users. These are listed below:

• information
• driver welfare
• understanding the wider impacts
• alternative solutions of traffic control

The culmination of our initial discussions resulted in a letter from our Chief Executive, Anthony Smith, to the lead agencies for Operation Stack. These comprise of Highways England, Kent Police and Kent County Council and we received helpful responses in return which detailed the steps already taken.

Online information provision

We examined the quality and consistency of online information provided to road users during Operation Stack from Wednesday 29 to Friday 31 July 2015, at which time Operation Stack was implemented as far as Stage 3. To do this we monitored key websites and Twitter feeds providing information to road users. The document illustrates what we found and you can read a copy of the report here.

We have already shared these findings with the various agencies involved in coordinating Operation Stack and we are working with them to improve the current communications strategy, from a road user perspective.

Lorry drivers experiences of Operation Stack

We are currently finalising research, in the event that Stack has to be implemented again, to capture lorry drivers’ views and priorities. We hope that the outputs should prove valuable in identifying improvements in how the consequences of cross-Channel disruption are managed.

The permanent solution

While Manston Airport is now available as a valuable interim measure, we share the desire for a permanent, better-located solution. We are ready to help Highways England and its partners ensure that the solution works effectively for all roads users.

The latest updates

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