Truckstop owners in Kent are calling on Highways England to work with them to introduce a system that would help take HGVs off of the M20 in the event of the implementation of Operation Brock.
Concerns are mounting over the effect of possible delays caused by the introduction of border controls at the Channel ports in the event of a No Deal Brexit.
A National Audit Office report last week claimed time was running out to test and implement Operation Brock, the Government’s contingency plan to create a contra-flow on the M20 to allow non-port traffic to keep moving while HGVs bound for the continent are queued on the motorway.
Managers of Ashford International Truckstop, close to Junction 10 of the M20, have been involved in group discussions with local authorities, freight operators and other HGV park owners over the challenges ahead.
Overnight the truckstop, which has recently been granted planning permission to double in capacity to accommodate 600 HGVs, is operating at close to full capacity, but during the day there are spaces available that could be used to get lorries off the motorway.
“It’s ironic that in the past when Operation Stack is in place we have been very quiet,” said Darren Smith, General Manager of Ashford International Truckstop.
“The main reason for that is that in those periods HGV drivers who pull off the M20 here in Ashford for any reason are directed back up the motorway to the rear of the queue at Maidstone when they come to rejoin.
“Understandably drivers, including those who have a reserved space here, would prefer to take their place in the queue rather than use the local truckstops and then have to head back several miles only to join the back of a long line of trucks.”
However, Darren and colleagues from other local sites have been in contact with the team that had been working up proposals for the once proposed lorry park at Stanford near Hythe.
They are developing new software that could link into the truckstop’s booking system and app which would see drivers with reservations being allowed to pass by the queue and into the site for their rest period.
HGVs would be parked up in controlled zones and filtered back into the port-bound traffic as appropriate.
Darren said: “This would benefit everyone. The drivers would get the proper rest and facilities they need, while up to 600 trucks would be taken off the M20, giving us safer roads.
“We are really keen to investigate this further and I know colleagues at other sites such as Stop24 at junction 11 are as well, but we need Highways England to give the go ahead for software to be tested and the system to be implemented.”
Last week Ashford Borough Council granted planning permission for a new, 600-capacity Ashford International Truckstop as part of wider plans for the development of the Waterbrook site on which it sits.
Work is expected to start on the new site imminently, with opening scheduled for later next year and the current site remaining open while the new one is under construction.
Darren added: “Everyone involved in the haulage industry in Kent wants to play their part in keeping traffic on the M20 flowing if we can, and we feel there’s a real opportunity here if Highways England help us pursue it.
“While it won’t be an alternative to Operation Brock, it can help lessen its impact if given the chance.”