Kent Messenger column 7th August 2015 - Operation Stack
Since it was first used in 1988, Operation Stack has been a bane of life for Kentish folk and a hot potato for a string of Kent politicians. In 2000 Michael Howard raised the issue with then Transport Secretary John Prescott who defended the scheme. In 2007 Damian Green was involved in a House of Commons debate where everyone agreed that Stacking was a problem – but no alternatives were decided upon.
March 2008 saw Stack implemented every day for over two weeks, bringing KCC leader Paul Carter and MEP Richard Ashworth into the fray, asking French President Sarkozy to step in help resolve the cause. This gave rise to plans for a lorry park but were never implemented due to local opposition.
And here we are in 2015 with the multiple effects of industrial action and illegal migration bringing our county to a standstill once again. All along I have said that this is a national problem, not a Kent problem, and this time the effects have been too huge to allow the issue to be kicked into the long grass once again.
Kent MPs are working effectively together to influence government and exert pressure for long term solutions; Last Friday at County Hall in Maidstone UK Transport Minister Andrew Jones stated that his department would now be taking the lead role in this issue. He's tasked Highways England with keeping a 2-way flow on the M20 and has pointed to Ebbsfleet International as a freight holding area.
In addition the PM is hands-on in dealing with the migrant crisis and its knock on effect upon channel crossing services, working with the French Government and investing an extra 7 million in new border control fencing.
I am committed to keeping up the pressure together with my Parliamentary and local government colleagues. It won't happen overnight but this time I think we will find success.
Helen's weekly column is published every Friday in the Kent Messenger. The content shown here may differ slightly from the press version.