Transport minister defends cost of lorry park

Press Association: Operation Stack

Transport minister Andrew Jones has defended the government’s decision to spend up to £250m on a lorry park replacement for Operation Stack, after appearing in front of the Transport Committee.

Asked this week by the select committee’s chairman Louise Ellman if developing an area the size of Disneyland for lorry parking was the best option available, Jones said it was.

“We have a significant economic asset via the Channel crossings. Last year we saw disruption – in June and July mainly – because of the perfect storm of increased holiday traffic, migrant incursions in the Channel Tunnel and industrial action in the French port. This disruption was unacceptable and we don’t want to see it again. We can’t entirely remove risk but we can put more resilience in place. This is a national issue, not just a Kent one; access to the port and tunnel and therefore the markets of Europe is a national issue.”

With the Port of Dover suggesting that last year’s shutdown of Calais and the subsequent unprecedented 26-day use of Operation Stack cost the UK economy approximately £150m a day in lost trade – and the effect to road haulage put at around £700,000 a day – Jones told the committee that it has been imperative the government acts swiftly to provide an alternative.

“It is not fair to call it a kneejerk reaction to an exceptional circumstance (CM 24 March). 10,000 HGVs go through the port and tunnel (two to one in favour of the port) each day, and both the port and Eurotunnel are predicting increases in volume in the future.

“We’re therefore putting in a long-term solution to a significant problem,” he said.

In an evidence session last month the FTA supported the new lorry park, while Eurotunnel suggested the plans amounted to a “£250m white elephant” for a problem that would not occur again.