New airport truck park is unlikely ever to be used while an M20 contraflow is doubtful too.
The fifty miles-worth of freshly painted white lanes on the runway at Manston Airport could hold a reported 10,000 full size artic lorries.
However, it seems unlikely the new truck park will ever be used, or at least so rarely it makes the fanfare surrounding last week’s announcement look more like a performance of smoke and mirrors.
Closer scrutiny of the plans reveals the airport in east Kent will only be used to replace the London-bound section of the M20 Operation Stack freight queue.
In the event of more major disruption on the Channel, trucks will first queue between J8-9 of the coastbound carriageway, then J9-11, exactly as now.
Only after the motorway is full J8-11 will Dover-bound trucks be diverted to Manston. Freight for Eurotunnel will continue to wait on the M20.
A spokesman for Highways England tells @DriveEurope today that, had Manston been available during the recent severe disruption in Calais, then it would have been used – but the London-bound M20 only closed twice during that time, for the first time ever.
With security now seemingly restored at Eurotunnel in France, and the MyFerryLink dispute firmly at the frozen conflict stage, a repeat of that situation seems unlikely.
Further, prospects of a contraflow system to keep the M20 open in both directions during future Operation Stacks are also highly doubtful.
Having already rejected the idea on safety grounds, Highways England will only agree to a contraflow if fresh evidence is provided by its partners, which include Kent Highways, Port of Dover and Kent Police. However, that is thought to be unlikely.
Few think Manston is the ideal solution for the highly disruptive Operation Stack, but it was welcomed by truck drivers who wouldn’t have to shuffle in line for hours on end, and who could access proper facilities while waiting.
Similarly, locals think Manston will take intolerable pressure off Kent roads. They are all going to be disappointed.