KM Column - Operation Brock - 28 February 2019
While we still don’t know what the outcome of our negotiations with the European Union will be, and with our exit date set for 29 March, it’s crucial that the Government steps up its planning for every scenario. Including the possibility of a no-deal exit.
We learnt in October about the plans the Department for Transport had developed, without any consultation, to use the M26 as a lorry park. It’s something I strongly opposed. Not just because we, living and working here, couldn’t plan alternatives. But because it is not the solution to the problem.
Countless meetings with Highways England and the Department for Transport later, and I’m making some progress. With the strong support of both Kent County Council and Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, we have persuaded the Department to look at alternatives first. Sadly, they haven’t entirely ruled out closing the M26, and proceeded with the works to install the gates on the central reservations should it be needed, but other options are planned to be used first.
Those alternatives include holding lorries at existing parking points in Dover, using a ’tap’ system to queue on the approach to the town, implementing Operation Brock, a contraflow system between Junctions 8 and 9 of the M20, and increasing capacity at Manston Airport. In relation to the latter, this will allow thousands more lorries to use the runway here, with all the welfare facilities available, before the M26 is even considered. It’s a better plan.
Of course, I hope none of these plans are ever needed. A deal with the European Union would ensure our borders were able to handle the transition smoothly, and we wouldn't need such contingencies. But while no deal remains possible, I’ll continue to work to make sure the impact to our community is minimised.