A proposed £250M lorry park for Operation Stack needs further justification, according to a report from the Transport Committee.
Operation Stack is used during prolonged disruption to cross channel services from Dover and Folkestone. It involves closing sections on the M20 in stages to provide ordered queues for lorries waiting to cross the Channel. The route carries more than 80% of the road freight entering or leaving the country, according to the Committee.
Disruption during 2015 saw Operation Stack deployed for 31 days. During this time the Government leased Stone Hill Park, formerly Manston Airport, as a temporary lorry park.
A lorry park for 4,000 lorries near junction 11 on the M20 has been proposed as a permanent solution. Balfour Beatty has already won a £130m contract for work on the project.
If completed, the lorry park would be the second largest in the world, beaten only by the Al Baraha Barwa in Qatar which can accommodate 4,200 lorries over 67ha.
The Transport Committee’s report has suggested that the Government has not clearly demonstrated what alternatives have been evaluated.
”We are not saying that the Government should not press ahead with its proposal, only that it has more work to do to persuade us of the business case for this investment,” said committee chair Louise Ellman.
The report highlighted five areas the Government should consider: the cost-benefit ratios of alternatives to the lorry park; whether the lorry park is a proportionate and appropriate solution to the scale and frequency of disruption associated with Operation Stack; the environmental and social costs that the lorry park will impose on the locality; the value of any benefits that the lorry park will bring locally and to the UK economy; and the long-term costs of operating, maintaining, renewing and, eventually, decommissioning the lorry park.
Alternative means for managing Operation Stack have been used in the past. A coned contraflow was trialled in 2005, but abandoned due to long set-up and removal times.
In 2008, the Highways Agency leased a Quick Moveable Barrier System to set up a mobile concrete contraflow. But the device, leased at £627,849 per year, was only used twice in the following four years. The lease ended in 2012 because the device was not cost effective, according to the report.
The Committee heard evidence that suggested a strengthened hard shoulder on the M20 to accommodate a contraflow system as an alternative to the lorry park. Other possible approaches include increasing capacity at Dover and the Eurotunnel, a network of smaller lorry parks and a “virtual queue” using an electronic ticketing system.