Operation Stack

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Coordinates: 51°05′33″N 1°05′33″E / 51.0926°N 1.0924°E / 51.0926; 1.0924

Operation Stack
Operation Stack.jpg
Operation Stack being implemented in March 2008
Operation Stack is located in Kent
Operation Stack
Operation Stack
 Operation Stack shown within Kent
OS grid reference TR169374
List of places

Operation Stack is used by Kent Police and the Port of Dover in England to park (or "stack") lorries on the M20 motorway in Kent when services across the English Channel, such as those from the Channel Tunnel or Port of Dover are disrupted, for example by bad weather or industrial action, or by fire or derailments in the tunnel.

According to Damian Green MP, by 2007 the system had been implemented 74 times in the 20 years after it was first introduced.[1]


The M20 is the main road from London and most of Britain to the Kent ports and Channel Tunnel. It runs south-east from the M25 motorway, connecting with the rest of the motorway network.

Lorries are parked on the carriageways as below, with all other traffic diverted onto the A20:

  • phase 1: coast-bound from junction 11 (Hythe) to 12 (Cheriton);[2]
  • phase 2: coast-bound from junction 8 (Maidstone) to 9 (Ashford);[2]
  • phase 3: London-bound from junction 9 (Ashford) to 8 (Maidstone).

The road can be closed for days at a time,[3] and as a result Operation Stack has been controversial.[4]

A map of the three phases of Operation Stack.


Several other options are being considered:

  • Parking the lorries on the Kent County Showground at Detling has been discussed by the Highways Agency, but locals are opposed because the area is very congested.[5]
  • In 2005, the Dover Harbour Board unveiled a plan to create a lorry park for 1500 vehicles[6] with construction beginning in 2006.[7]
  • In February 2007, it was revealed that Kent County Council has been talking to landowners about buying land for a lorry park.[8]
  • There has been a suggestion from Shepway District Council for a lorry park to the north-east of the roundabout at Junction 11, which would be supported by development in the Stanford and Lympne areas.[9]
  • A coned contraflow system has been trialled on the 10.5 miles (16.9 km) section between Ashford and Maidstone, to relieve the pressure on the A20, but it was costly and slow to arrange, taking two days to set up and two days to remove.[10] The Highways Agency have announced a plan to use Quick Movable Barriers[11][12] to set up a contraflow so that two lanes can be maintained.[13]


At the end of January 2007, local Members of Parliament Damian Green (Ashford) and Stephen Ladyman (Thanet) were involved in a debate covering Operation Stack in the House of Commons. Everyone agreed that stacking was a problem but there were no firm decisions as to any alternatives.[14]

March 2008[edit]

On 5 March 2008 industrial action that had begun in late February by French workers operating SeaFrance cross-channel ferries resulted in Kent Police initiating phase 2 of Operation Stack.[15] The industrial action lasted for a number of days with the backlog on the M20 causing significant disruption. The MEP for South East England, Richard Ashworth, and the leader of Kent County Council, Paul Carter, urged French president Nicolas Sarkozy to step in and resolve the dispute because of the resulting difficulties.[16][17] This was the first time in the 20-year history of Operation Stack that the M20 was closed for more than three days; businesses in nearby towns reported trade down by up to 50%.[18]

According to Kent Police logs, between one and three phases of Operation Stack was implemented for at least part of each day between 28 February and 15 March 2008.[19] The Freight Transport Association estimated the cost of disruption to be between £4m-£5m at 9 March 2008.[20] Kent County Council later announced progress with plans to construct a lorry park for temporary use to mitigate the effects of Operation Stack. This has met with opposition from the borough councilor for Saxon Shore ward where it would be sited; he accused the county council of "not thinking strategically", not considering the environmental impact properly, and of siting it too close to a National Grid facility, where he expects the fuel in vehicles to be a danger to a "facility of strategic national importance".[21]

Other ports[edit]


When the port of Felixstowe is closed, lorries are parked on the old A45 at Levington. They used to be parked on the A14 but this was deemed to be too dangerous for other road users.[22] This is implemented when winds exceed 45 miles per hour (72 km/h) as the cranes cannot be operated due to Health and Safety regulations.[23]


When the ports of Cairnryan and Stranraer are closed, lorries are parked on the closed A751.


  1. ^ http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmhansrd/cm070201/debtext/70201-0019.htm#07020135001174 |chapter-url= missing title (help). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. February 1, 2007. col. 465. 
  2. ^ a b "French Strike hits Dover services". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 2005-03-22. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  3. ^ "Police call off Operation Stack". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 2005-03-06. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  4. ^ "Call for Operation Stack to end". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 2005-03-18. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  5. ^ "Showground considered for lorries". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 2005-05-14. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  6. ^ "Lorry park plan for Channel port". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 2005-11-10. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  7. ^ "Port to build four ferry berths". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 9/03/2006. Retrieved 2010-01-03.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. ^ "Kent looks at permanent site for Operation Stack". Roadtransport.com (Reed Business Information Limited). 2007-02-01. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  9. ^ "Cabinet Committee Minutes October 2005" (PDF). Kent County Council. 2005-10-24. 
  10. ^ "Changes to Operation Stack system". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 2005-03-24. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  11. ^ "Quick Moveable Barrier (QMB) Machine". Highways Agency. Retrieved 2008-03-14. 
  12. ^ "Barrier to solve Operation Stack". BBC News. 2007-06-25. Retrieved 2008-03-14. 
  13. ^ "QMB to improve Operation Stack". Highways Agency. 2007-06-25. 
  14. ^ "Operation Stack raised in Commons". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 2007-02-01. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  15. ^ "Ferry action brings M20 closures". BBC News. 5 March 2008. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  16. ^ "Protest to Sarkozy over M20 chaos". BBC News. 6 March 2008. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  17. ^ "MEP seeks to resolve ferry strike". BBC News. 8 March 2008. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  18. ^ "Police in appeal over M20 chaos". BBC News. 7 March 2008. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  19. ^ "Response to Freedom of Information Request Received 15 March 2010" (PDF). Kent Police. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  20. ^ "M20 chaos ends after Stack lifted". BBC News. 9 March 2008. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  21. ^ "Plans for M20 lorry park revealed". BBC News. 12 March 2008. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  22. ^ "Operation Stack" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-09-15. 
  23. ^ "Port Prepared For More High Winds". Felixstow TV. 2006-12-06. 

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