Operation Stack being implemented in March 2008
Operation Stack shown within Kent
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Operation Stack is used by Kent Police and the Port of Dover in England to park lorries on the M20 motorway in Kent when the Channel Tunnel, English Channel or Dover port are closed, by bad weather or industrial action, or by fire or derailments in the tunnel. The system has been implemented over 75 times since its inception 20 years ago.[clarification needed]
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 is diverted onto the A20:
- phase 1: coast-bound from junction 11 (Hythe) to 12 (Cheriton);
- phase 2: coast-bound from junction 8 (Maidstone) to 9 (Ashford) (;
- phase 3: London-bound from junction 9 (Maidstone) to 8 (Ashford).
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.
- In 2005, the Dover Harbour Board unveiled a plan to create a lorry park for 1500 vehicles with construction beginning in 2006.
- In February 2007, it was revealed that Kent County Council has been talking to landowners about buying land for a lorry park.
- 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.
- 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. The Highways Agency have announced a plan to use Quick Movable Barriers to set up a contraflow so that two lanes can be maintained.
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.
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. 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. 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%. On 13 March Stack was still operational.[clarification needed] The Freight Transport Association estimated the cost of disruption to be around £5 m as at 9 March. 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".
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. 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.
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- "Operation Stack" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-09-15.
- "Port Prepared For More High Winds". Felixstow TV. 2006-12-06.
- "Operation Stack information". Kent County Council. Retrieved 2010-02-11.[dead link]
- "Highways Agency description of Operation Stack". Highways Agency. 2009-04-14. Retrieved 2010-02-11.
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- "Lorry backlog closes part of M20". BBC News. 5/12/2006. Retrieved 2010-01-03.
- "Operation Stack returns near port". BBC News. 11/03/2008. Retrieved 2010-01-03.
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- "Proposed new Junction 10b and Lorry Park". Monserat Properties. 2009-08-13.