Many of us are still haunted by the chaos that gripped Kent during the summer of 2015 when disruption at the Port of Dover led to endless weeks of congestion due to Operation Stack.
Kent MPs have since vowed that this must never happen again and have lobbied the Government to introduce a permanent solution which would keep the arterial roads in Kent moving even in the event of major disruption at the border.
Last year, Operation Brock was developed and whilst it did meet the major test of allowing traffic to move in both directions along the M20, it had many flaws. Most seriously: the length of time it took to implement and the speed restrictions that were in place throughout its operation. It was clearly therefore not viable as a permanent solution to Kent’s problem.
This week, the Department for Transport have announced that a new movable barrier will be introduced as a permanent replacement for Operation Brock. The new barrier: can, in theory, be deployed at just hours’ notice, will make sure that traffic flows both ways along the M20 during major disruption and will mean the M20 can keep 70mph speed limits when the contra flow is not in force.
I welcome this announcement, but with a heavy dose of caution until we uncover more of the specific details. We have been down this road before and been told that a removable barrier would solve the problem only to then discover that the technology is not up to the task.
I will therefore continue to work with my Kent MP colleagues to urge the Government to bring forward more details of their new plan as soon as possible and I have written to the Transport Secretary today to ask him to do so. The new proposal must ensure that delays at Dover or Folkestone can never again be allowed to bring Kent grinding to a halt.