Published: 04:00, 23 January 2015
Kent Police has announced that Operation Stack has been lifted after four days of traffic misery.
Traffic will continue to be closely monitored in case delays begin to build up again, a spokesman said
Weekend volumes had inevitably reduced today and the huge delays on the motorway shortened.
Kent Police's traffic unit was earlier reporting 12-mile queues between junctions 8-9 during the afternoon, down from the peak of 20 miles.
But in a statement at 7.10pm police said Stack had now officially been lifted.
The so-called "up and over" system at junction 8 in which traffic had to leave the motorway and then rejoin has also been lifted and the motorway fully opened last night.
Meanwhile a heated debate over the management of the traffic misery continued with Kent police commissioner Ann Barnes wading in while a petition was set up calling for the system to be scrapped.
Ms Barnes praised the work of the police during the 'frustrating' queues, but said valued police resources - 35 officers in total - would be better used elsewhere.
She added: "Those thirty five police officers should be out in our communities helping the local people who pay for them, rather than having them ‘babysit’ lorry drivers on the M20."
She claimed the traffic management scheme was the best solution to the problem: "Operation Stack is currently the best way of dealing with traffic when issues arise at Kent’s ports, but going forward, it is the responsibility of all the agencies to look at any alternative solutions.
"How long must the people of Kent wait for a solution to this never-ending problem?"
Meanwhile, a petition calling for an end to Operation Stack as a means of dealing with cross-channel traffic delays neared the 1,000-mark today. Set up on the HM Government website, it says: "The Government should provide lorries with sufficient lorry park facilities and finance this with a toll charged at the point of entry into the UK on all lorries."
Ports at Portsmouth and Poole yesterday reported that they had space for extra freight traffic.
A spokesman for Brittany Ferries, which operates the cross-Channel routes there said it was possible that these alternative ports could play a role to alleviate the problems caused by Operation Stack congestion in the future.
It comes as a leading Kent police officer insisted the force is not to blame for the ongoing Operation Stack chaos.
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The comments from Chief Superintendent Adrian Futers came on Thursday after it was announced the huge M20 delays will continue into the weekend.
Ch Supt Futers took to Twitter to defend Kent Police's handling of the situation.
He said he was "frustrated that Operation Stack was seen as a Kent Police issue" adding: "After ten years others need to resolve (the situation) now.
Video: Reporter Jemma Collins on how Operation Stack is affecting motorists
The AA's head of roads policy Paul Watters thinks the impact of the latest implementation of Operation Stack has been particularly severe.
He said: "In essence, Folkestone and Dover becomes virtually cut off from the national motorway network and it costs the county dear in terms of economic damage and is incredibly frustrating for local commuters and drivers.
"It is perhaps inevitable that with so much traffic making for the tunnel when there is a problem, the impact will quickly result in a build-up of traffic with nowhere to go.
"Operation Stack is well rehearsed and the only immediate action which can be taken but clearly for drivers in this part of Kent, it is not enough."
A group of Kent MPs held a meeting with roads minister John Hayes to call for action.
Among them was Ashford MP Damian Green, who described the latest implementation of Operation Stack as "the worst than any before".
He said: "We need to find a series of places around Kent where we can park lorries when there's disruption in the Channel.
"We want to see a rolling programme so everyone in Kent can see that gradually, there is some relief. We shouldn't do everything before we can do anything."
He said there was the potential for lorry parking capacity to be created near the Eurotunnel, the Port of Dover and next to junction 11 of the M20, and suggested it could be partly funded by money collected from foreign lorries travelling through Dover.
The emergency measures are said to be costing haulage firms significant amounts of money as their drivers sit stranded on the carriageway.
Natalie Chapman from the Freight Transport Association said it costs £1 a minute to run an HGV, as well as the costs of products on board being spoilt and potential lost contracts because products have not been delivered on time.
She continued: "The cost to the freight industry and the economy as a whole could potentially be very large from this.
"In this day and age we shouldn't be having drivers parked up on the side of a motorway sat in their cabs with very little in the way of facilities.
"It is cold, it's not pleasant and I think we should be doing much better in the 21st century."
Video: Operation Stack is in place
Ian Taylor from the Association of British Drivers said the problems caused by Operation Stack would not go away until money is allocated to improving the road infrastructure.
He said: "It (Operation Stack) was originally brought in as a short-term emergency measure but we have had it for not such a short time.
"Unfortunately, bad as it is, it doesn’t look like we will get anything done until someone gets the funds to do something.
"We favour the Westernhanger lorry park idea, if that can go ahead.
"In the longer term, maybe the addition of more facilities. If they got around to improving the A2 that would help but it’s something for the future.
"The responsibility of providing the roads is up to the government. Governments have failed us in that respect.
"Improving the A2 would help. Calais has three different motorways going into it, Dover has one. If Calais deserves three, Dover deserves at least two or improved main roads."
In light of the "misery" caused to drivers by Operation Stack, a petition has been launched calling on the government to scrap the measures and build lorry parks instead.
It says: "To bring Operation Stack to an end the Government should provide lorries with sufficient lorry park facilities and finance this with a toll charged at the point of entry into the UK on all lorries."
But Kent County Council says a series of lorry parks to help when Operation Stack is in place is planned, but the first is unlikely to be built until 2017 - and even that may be optimistic.
The politician in charge of roads, Cllr David Brazier (Con) said the authority was making some progress but had yet to negotiate the purchase of land it needed for a park adjacent to the STOP24 services at Westenhanger, Folkestone.
He also warned motorists and residents would be likely to face increased traffic as an improving economy meant more hauliers on the roads.
KCC has already borrowed £10m to help put in place its lorry park plans but Mr Brazier warned the timescale could prove optimistic and would only go some of the way to helping.
“The site at STOP24 is probably our best bet. My best estimate is that we will work on the site and have it open by 2017. I think that may be optimistic.”
Under KCC’s plans, up to three lorry parks could be built at sites close to Dover. Each would be operated as round-the-clock service stations but have capacity to park several hundred lorries when Operation Stack is implemented.
Long-standing plans for a large lorry park off the M20 near Ashford, first mooted by KCC ten years ago, were scrapped last year.
But the severe delays on the roads have sparked a furious reaction.
Howard Cox, of the Fair Fuel Campaign that lobbies for lower fuel prices on behalf of hauliers and other groups, said he has been contacted by firms who are suffering as a result of the disruption.
"I understand they are getting delays of nine or ten, twelve hours," he said.
"With the supply chain this impacts on the costs involved and these costs are passed right down to the consumer.
"If they are late, even if it's excusable, they could be penalised, they might have to give a discount for late delivery or the customer might go elsewhere because they need what is stuck on that truck.
"The drivers are thinking 'how long am I going to sit here?' Remember that most don't get overtime pay for this, so they are not seeing their families, away from from their homes. There are a lot of social issues related to this."
Mr Cox criticised the speed of repairs to the tunnel, and said there should be better systems in place to avoid widespread disruption.
"This goes on so many times", he said.
"You'd think they'd have some sort of contigency plan in place to sort this out. I know there was some damage but why does it take so long to repair? I think health and safety dominates here and they are scared to take risks."
Surrounding roads, particularly the A20, are heavily congested due to the diversions in place because of Operation Stack and the ongoing problems from the Channel Tunnel and impact on the Port of Dover.
It is only introduced as an emergency measure after consultation with various agencies.
Road users are advised to contact their travel operator before setting off on your journey.
In a statement issued on Wednesday a Eurotunnel spokesman said passenger services from the UK were "operating with some timetable disruption, this is due to an incident in the Tunnel which is in the process of being resolved.
"There is a waiting time of approximately 60 minutes on the terminal. We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience this will cause to your journey."
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