A new contraflow on the M20 could be introduced within days to keep traffic moving as part of measures to minimise the impact of Operation Stack and help restore normality to the lives of the people in Kent who have been blighted by long delays, due to the motorway closures and diversions.
Highways England has agreed to implement the contraflow when Operation Stack is in place, following a summit at County Hall today to consider ideas to stop the county becoming gridlocked.The contraflow would be on the northbound carriageway of the M20 for traffic heading to Dover and Folkestone and other parts of east Kent.Folkestone and Hythe MP Damian Collins said there were genuine grounds for optimism.He said: “We have a new deal for Kent and a new plan that will mean the M20 can always be open in both directions – this will be done by creating a contraflow, giving great relief to Kent’s roads.Cllr Matthew Balfour, Kent County Council cabinet member for highways, who chaired today’s meeting, said: “I am delighted that Highways England have agreed to bring in within days a contraflow on the motorway, which means it will not be completely shut going east.”Asked why the idea had not been considered before, he said: “We have but it has been a question of persuading Highways England and the police that it can be done safely. “Allied with that, our report will be presented to the minister for transport next week. It may have caveats because not everyone will agree on everything.” He said the report underlined the importance of longer term solutions such as creating holding areas for HGVs not just in Kent but across the country. “If there is a problem, it would mean we don’t have all the lorries stuck on our motorway so the pain is spread.”
But the idea of using Manston airport site as a temporary emergency park appears to have been scrapped.
Cllr Balfour said: “Both the police and hauliers’ representatives have pointed out all the difficulties and it really is not a goer.” It was also agreed that if there was extra demand for Operation Stack, as we have seen, where at some points the M20 was closed in both directions, instead of just using that, we would use the M26 to manage it so we can keep the traffic moving in both directions.”
Ashford MP Damian Green echoed: “For once, this was a useful meeting. I see no reason why a contraflow would not work – we have them all over the country all the time and it could be installed within a matter of days.” He added: “That would be a very significant step forward. It has been considered before but the difference here is that this is such a state of emergency, that organisations which have been slow in the past have been encouraged to be rather faster moving.”
John Keefe of Eurotunnel said that while the contraflow was welcomed, more action was needed in Calais to deal with the on-going security issue. He told The Looker; “More needs to be done. The French authorities were obviously overwhelmed by the growth in numbers. They simply don’t have the resources to deal with that many people. “We have invested 150m euros in the last 15 years in security and fencing and patrols. This year, we have already invested 13m euros to repair fences to stop the migrants coming and trying again and again. So, we need more support from the governments.This is a very frustrating situation. The costs we are incurring are unsustainable. It is a law and order issue, it is a migration issue and that is a government problem. It is for Europe to solve.”