It’s been four years since I was stuck in it, and my mum too, near where she lives off Junction 8. The ‘Summer of Stack’ in 2015 lives painfully large in many local memories and its spectre generated collective groans of concern from the good people of Maidstone and the Weald as Operation Stack was implemented once again last week. Whilst the impact was relatively minimal this time, it served as an abrupt reminder of the default response to Channel crossing disruption – but hopefully not for long.
Many Kent MPs, myself included, have been collectively campaigning for an alternative to ‘Stack’ for the last four years (indeed much longer for some of us) and I am encouraged that a long-awaited solution is almost ready to go.
Operation Brock, which will replace Stack, introduces a contraflow system between junctions 8 and 9 of the M20. This means that, even in the event of significant disruption at the Port, HGVs can queue on one side of the carriageway whilst traffic continues to flow both ways on the other. Brock also makes provision for parking lorries at Manston Airport and, in the very worst-case scenario, on the M26.
Over recent months, regular meetings have taken place in the House of Commons between Kent MPs, Kent County Council, Kent Police, the Department for Transport and Highways England to monitor Operation Brock’s implementation. The roadworks necessary to introduce it are well underway and it is expected to be ready for operation this Spring.
Whilst this progress is to be welcomed, what Kent really needs is a long-term solution, such as a lorry park, which will allow our roads to continue to operate as normal even in the event of major disruption at Dover. I will therefore be continuing to work with my Kent MP colleagues to make this case and turn it into reality over the months ahead.