After weeks of chaos on Kent's motorways, Faversham MP Helen Whately is calling for major changes to how the county's motorway traffic is handled...
I know just how awful Kent’s roads have been in the last few weeks.
Disruption at the Channel Ports – largely caused by P&O Ferries – has led to the unwelcome return of Operation Brock and huge pressure on our roads.
I’ve spent my fair share of time in the queues on the M2 and A20 recently, giving me plenty to say to my ministerial colleagues about the continued use of the M20 as a lorry park.
I have made it clear to transport ministers and Kent Police that I do not see Operation Brock as successfully managing the situation.
Despite the best efforts of the police - and they have worked hard at this - it’s near impossible to stop lorries rat-running to avoid queueing on the M20, and I’ve heard plenty of tales of lorries ending up in single-track lanes causing chaos.
Enforcing Operation Brock has in fact been the main cause of the long queues we’ve seen at Brenley Corner .I joined Kent Police and DVLA staff on Good Friday to see their traffic management first-hand.
The checks were clearly serving a purpose, with several lorries stopped and dispatched to the nearest lay-by to be fined during my visit. But I could also see how each lorry pulled over meant more frustrating delays for local motorists.
Traffic thankfully improved over the Easter weekend, following my calls to stand down Operation Brock at the earliest possible opportunity. But the past few weeks have made it clearer than ever that we need a long-term solution to Operation Brock.
This time the disruption has been caused by P&O Ferries not sailing, but we’ve seen problems at the Channel Ports before with bad weather, strikes, and Covid.
Turning the M20 into a lorry park every time there is disruption at our ports is simply not sustainable.
My strong preference is to see traffic problems handled at source before lorries arrive in Kent. I’ve stressed to transport ministers that disruption at the Channel Ports should not be seen as Kent’s problem, it’s a UK problem.
Lorries should not be allowed to pile up in Kent when there are queues at Dover. We had plans ready for Brexit, including the Kent Access Permit for HGV drivers. We need to revive those plans and be ready to go further.
Better use of technology like automatic number plate recognition would also help with this and prevent the need for physical checks, which caused such huge problems at Brenley Corner.
We also need to improve our local infrastructure. I met the roads minister earlier this month to call for investment at Brenley Corner to finally get the green light so we can fix this bottleneck once and for all.
More lorry parking is also needed both in Kent and further afield for when there is disruption and for normal times. It’s important that HGV drivers have somewhere safe to take a break, as well as preventing lorry fly-parking.
The Kent Resilience Forum will shortly be carrying out a review of Operation Brock and I look forward to taking part in that.
I’ll continue to call for better answers to the question of how to manage disruption at the Channel Ports.Kent’s motorists deserve better.