Our Man In Westminster MP Damian Collins
In two weeks time the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne will present his Autumn Statement to the House of Commons. This speech will set out the government’s spending commitments and the budgets for the different departments. Last week I led a delegation of 12 MPs from Kent to see the Chancellor to urge him to include special provision within the Autumn Statement to fund a long term solution to Operation Stack.
You will not need to be reminded that Operation Stack has come into force for 32 days this year, and mostly during a concentrated period in late June and July. This is the worst period of Operation Stack we have ever known, brought about by a perfect storm of severe strike action in the Port of Calais, the European migrant crisis disrupting services through the Channel Tunnel, and summer holiday traffic. However, we cannot afford to have such a level of disruption again. It has been estimated that the direct economic impact of Stack has cost Kent this year £46million; although this is probably a lower figure than the reality. The road freight industry believe that the broader impact on the national economy could have been £8billion.
Whilst some people might say that we may never again see the level of crisis we endured this summer, I would urge them to look at the projections for the growth in road freight to the Channel Tunnel and Port of Dover over the next ten years. It is estimated that the average daily flow of traffic will grow from 10,000 lorries per day to over 16,000 per day. So we need to invest to provide the infrastructure we need to cope with Stack now, and in the future.
There was broad agreement between the government, county and district authorities that the solution to Stack is to have a system where two way traffic can be maintained on the M20 motorway at all times. This requires off road lorry parking, to hold some vehicles whilst they are queuing to get to their destination. The use of Manston Airport provides a temporary solution to this problem, but we need a permanent one which is closer to the Channel Tunnel and Port, and better integrated into the existing motorway infrastructure. Lorry parking or queueing facilities would also be much more effective if they were accessed directly from the motorway, so that there is no disturbance to the surrounding roads. The creation of these facilities should also allow us to enforce a district wide ban on lorries parking up on roadsides and verges where they make such a mess. With more proper off road parking facilities, there could be no excuse from lorry drivers that they had no-where else to go.
The case I made to the Chancellor last week, was that all of this investment is necessary to support the national economy and infrastructure, as well as to alleviate the intolerable pressure that was put on the people of Kent this summer. That is why we need a commitment to government funding for the long term solution to Operation Stack.