Published: 09:03, 25 June 2007
A REVOLUTIONARY multi-million pound moveable barrier aimed at easing traffic delays along the M20 during Operation Stack could be ready to use in a year.
Transport minister and Kent MP Dr Steve Ladyman said government plans to invest £12.6million in a Quick Moveable Barrier would mean the M20 could stay open when the police-led operation is triggered because of disruption at the ports of Dover and Folkestone.
The prospect of a partial solution to the problems caused by Operation Stack was broadly welcomed across the county. However, council chiefs, Kent Police and hauliers said a lorry park was still needed to provide a permanent solution.
The 8km barrier will be used to keep two lanes open on the M20 when what is known as "phase one" of Operation Stack is implemented. It will allow a contra-flow to be operated on the London-bound carriageway of the M20, meaning that traffic can remain on the motorway rather than being diverted on to the A20 at Junction 11.
Dr Ladyman said: "We believe that barrier will provide an effective improvement for Phase One of Operation Stack and can be in place within a year.
"Clearly, we would like an off-road solution and if the county council can come up with the right solution that is cost effective, we will look closely at it. But in the meantime, this will help keep the traffic moving and will stay in place so long as it is necessary."
The option of a second barrier to use when the second phase of Operation Stack is triggered between Maidstone and Ashford will also be investigated.
"If it looks like a lorry park could be delayed we will extend the barrier to phase two, provided it is cost effective," said Dr Ladyman, who announced the investment at Dover on Monday.
The announcement was welcomed by Kent Police chief Mike Fuller but insisted a long-term answer was still required. He said: "We see it as a short-term solution and ultimately we want a solution that gets vehicles off the road."
Kent County Council described the announcement as a "positive signal".
Cllr Keith Ferrin (Con), cabinet member for highways, said: "It's a step in the right direction. A lorry park offers the best medium to long-term solution."
The Freight Transport Association, which is based in Kent, also stressed the need for a lorry park capable of holding several thousand trucks.
Gordon Telling, FTA head of policy, said: "We are pleased the Government is taking this seriously but we do not want this announcement to allow plans for a lorry park to be put on the backburner."