More must be done to demonstrate the case for plans to build a £250m lorry park near the M20 in Kent to ease disruption from queuing large goods vehicles (LGVs), according to MPs.
In its report, Operation Stack, the Transport Committee said the decision to proceed with plans for a lorry park as a solution to disruption caused by the queuing of lorries when cross channel services are disrupted was taken hastily and “the speed of doing so appears to have left some of the usual best practice behind”.
Operation Stack, used by Kent Police when disruption is prolonged, involves closing parts of the M20 to provide a place to hold queues of LGVs with the aim of keeping as much of the north and south bound carriageways open as possible. The process causes significant costs and inconvenience locally and for hauliers and businesses.
The government has set aside £250m to build a permanent lorry park near Junction 11 of the M20 which will hold around 4,000 large goods vehicles. The plans follow the events of last summer when Operation Stack was used for 31 days, longer than ever before.
The lorry park will require an area of land equivalent to 90 football pitches and would be on a scale unprecedented in Europe, with just one other lorry park in the world rivalling its size, the committee said.
The committee called on transport ministers to demonstrate that the lorry park was necessary. In particular it called on ministers to look at the cost-benefit ratios of alternatives and whether the lorry park was a proportionate solution to the scale and frequency of disruption associated with Operation Stack.
Alternatives to the lorry park suggested in the report include upgrading the M20 and/or the A2/M2, increasing the capacity of cross-channel services, building a network of smaller lorry parks, using technology to manage a system of virtual queuing, and moving more freight from road to rail.
Committee chair Louise Ellman MP said that Operation Stack was not just a local issue.
“The routes to Dover and Folkestone are important nationally, they carry more than 80% of the road freight entering or leaving the UK.
“The government has settled on a lorry park as the best solution but what they are proposing is on a vast scale and could cost up to a quarter of a billion pounds.
“Ministers need to do more in order to justify this spending and it should do more to demonstrate why a lorry park roughly the size of Disneyland in California is better than the alternatives we heard about during our inquiry.”