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M26 closed for secret lorry park plans post Brexit

By Paul Francis

An MP has reacted with fury after discovering secret plans to shut part of the M26 for a month in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The government has admitted it could use a stretch of the motorway to hold lorries if there is disruption at the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel - extending the scale of Operation Stack beyond the M20.

But Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat expressed his fury at being kept in the dark when he confronted the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling on the issue today during a frosty exchange in the Commons.

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He said: “It comes to a pretty pass when an MP is told that work is going on to turn part of a motorway into a lorry park without any consultation with the local community or surrounding members.

"The M26 works started last night. I wrote to the Secretary of State in April asking if this was going to happen and I was assured only last night that there were no plans and only yesterday was it confirmed by Highways England that was exactly what was planned.”

The route shut last night for the start of works
The route shut last night for the start of works

The MP said he wanted answers to how planning permission has been granted “without any consultation.”

“Many of us who have worked hard to find somewhere for a lorry park elsewhere in the country.

"I want the department for transport to come up with better solutions than this because It is an acceptable to close down a part of Kent.”

Mr Grayling responded saying he did not expect any of the contingency plans being considered would actually come to fruition.

“I am confident that the contingencies that we have in place for a no-deal Brexit will not be needed because we will have a deal in place.”

The 9.8 mile motorway, which connects the M20 to the M25, are scheduled from 10pm until 5.30pm this week until Monday, and then again from 10pm until 5pm from from November 19 to December 21.

MP Tom Tugendhat spoke out in parliament today
MP Tom Tugendhat spoke out in parliament today

A Highways England statement said: "As part of wider resilience planning, Highways England has been asked by the Department for Transport to develop plans to utilise the M26 to hold heavy goods vehicles, should further capacity be required in the future.

"We will be undertaking site surveys on the M26 during October leading to the installation of two gates in the central reservation to support the safe management of freight in the future, if needed.

"The work is to install crossover points in the central reservation which can be used to direct traffic onto the opposite carriageway.

"They are commonplace on motorways and major A roads across the country and help us to manage traffic during incidents."

The diversion route faced by motorists around the M26 (4759482)
The diversion route faced by motorists around the M26 (4759482)

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