The government has ordered an urgent review into the resilience of the road network in East Kent after five-hour delays and long queues on the M20 caused major disruption for motorists this week.
There have been ongoing traffic problems caused as a result of reduced capacity at the Channel Tunnel following a fire on Saturday (17 January). Phase two of Operation Stack, where lorries queue on parts of the M20 to ease congestion leading to the Port of Dover was implemented earlier this week, and is expected to remain in place until tomorrow (Saturday 24 January).
A meeting between East Kent MPs and the Roads Minister, John Hayes, took place yesterday (22 January). Mr Hayes (pictured) told the BBC: “The Kent MPs brought this to my attention and I fully understand the impact on the people of Kent.
“I have asked my officials to think quickly and creatively about ways that police, the Highways Agency and others can work together to tackle this problem.”
Yesterday (22 Janaury), the Highways Agency said M20 congestion remained severe with delays of more than three hours on the coastbound carriageway. Road users are being advised to find alternative routes. Other delays have been reported on Eurostar services, Eurotunnel, DFDS Seaways and My Ferry Link.
Whilst praising the efforts of the Port of Dover and the ferry operators in handling a dramatic increase in traffic, the leader of Dover District Council has lamented the lack of resilience to cope with such demand.
Cllr Paul Watkins said: “It is unacceptable that communities in East Kent are expected to bear the burden of what is a national issue. The UK economy relies on Dover and the Channel Tunnel to keep the nation’s trade moving. Yet time after time we are left isolated and cut off by the lack of resilience in the road network and a lack of investment to support the nation’s premier roll-on/roll-off port.
“We’re calling on the government to take action to develop a strategy on cross-Channel freight transport resilience so that the police and highway authorities have the resources to manage the situation more proactively.
“Dover is as important to the national economy as Heathrow Airport. If Dover’s not working, the nation isn’t.”
Cllr Nigel Collor, DDC portfolio holder for access, added: “It’s frustrating that local communities in Dover, Shepway and Ashford are being left to cope with this situation. It is impacting businesses, tourists and local residents alike. We share their frustration and support the widespread calls for a more proactive response from the government. We’re doing as much as we can to alert the police and highways authorities to bottlenecks in the town, but it’s evident that a long-term solution to deal with the issue is needed.”