Government plans to build a £250m lorry park in Kent to prevent delays caused by Operation Stack have been criticised by the Transport Committee, which described the decision as “rushed” and called for more research into its cost and impact.

The 4,000 space lorry park, which will be the largest in Europe, is intended to prevent a repeat of the massive queues on Kent’s roads last summer caused by disruption at the Port of Calais by migrant incursions and industrial action by French ferry workers.

However the select committee’s report Operation Stack has raised concerns that the plans for the giant park have been rushed through and recommends further assessment of the proposal and of alternative proposals.

The report said: “Only now, after the decision has already been taken, is a cost-benefit analysis being attempted. We have yet to see any hard evidence that the analysis that is being carried out will be adequate.

"It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the government, having committed itself to a particular policy, is now seeking to construct a justification for it.  There are considerable risks involved in spending such large sums and the speed of doing so appears to have left some of the usual best practice behind it.”

Announcing the report, Louise Ellman MP, chairman of the committee said: "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 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. 

"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.”  

The committee wants the DfT to look at:

  • 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 of the lorry park
  • 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

Alternatives to the lorry park 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.

The FTA warned against any delay in finding a solution to the disruption. Malcolm Bingham, head of road network management policy, said: “We must urgently press ahead with a plan that will protect drivers, their vehicles and the £89bn of trade which passes through this route each year.”

He added: “The implementation of the queuing system which we have seen on numerous occasions causes major disruption, not only for the drivers in Operation Stack but also for Kent’s businesses and residents, and we need a solution.

“There needs to be a managed flow of traffic to the port and tunnel.  If a large lorry area is the answer, then the residents of Kent deserve an explanation of what the need is and how it will work.  Equally if that is not the solution, any alternatives need to be fully explored.”


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